July unrest: Barricades in Phoenix set up out of fear, hearing told
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Durban - The South African Human Rights Commission’s national investigative hearing into the July 2021 unrest in KwaZulu-Natal has heard that barricades had been set up in Phoenix out of fear that the area would be attacked and looted.
This was the testimony provided by the owner of a Phoenix security company, Glen Naidoo, to the commission’s panellists, commissioners Chris Nissen and Philile Ntuli, on Thursday as he provided evidence of the events that had taken place after he had rallied Phoenix community members to barricade all of Phoenix through a video on his company’s Facebook page.
Naidoo said he made the call due to information he had received from his family’s domestic workers who had told him and other community members that Phoenix was targeted for attack with the intention to loot and burn businesses.
He said he had only called for people to defend their homes, families, businesses and loved ones, and that the aim of the barricades was to prevent Phoenix from being attacked and looted.
When quizzed by the evidence leaders whether the barricades had been set up out of fear and not out of a factual background of housebreaking and theft incidents in and around Phoenix related to the unrest, Naidoo said that the housebreakings were smaller and minor.
“The intention of the barricades was to prevent the residents of Phoenix from being attacked and, yes, things went horribly, a lot of people died, but I can’t be held accountable for that. Those people that are responsible for that, at the end of the day must face justice in their own way,” Naidoo said.
He said people had to defend themselves in the absence of the defence mechanism that is set up by the Constitution.
“The president has admitted this, the minister of police, the commissioners of police, people throughout the world have said at the end of the day they were absent and they were late,” Naidoo said.
Prior to the unrest, Naidoo said his company had had a good relationship with the SAPS but that they were now being hounded and harassed by “certain organs of state” after Police Minister Bheki Cele had “demonised” his company on national television, holding it responsible for the unrest in Phoenix. “We feel that we are being victimised for what we’ve done,” Naidoo said.
He added that the community had no one else to turn to and they had to defend themselves while he also denied that Africans had been racially profiled in the area during the unrest.
He said his company’s security personnel had also had altercations with a lot of people manning the barricades, even leading to some of his company’s cars and some of his personal vehicles being damaged.
Naidoo said this boiled down to the insecurity of the people of the community as there was no police visibility.
“When you see these attacks taking place on television broadcast over a couple of days, and you know you’re going to be a victim, you would do anything in your power to defend yourself and look after those that you love most.
“That’s why I understand the fear of the people because I saw it myself personally, and we tried our best to reassure the people, but we are just a security company and people needed to see the police,” Naidoo said.