DURBAN – The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will conduct an inspection in loco, today, of the Phoenix and Pietermaritzburg areas in KwaZulu-Natal as part of its investigation into the causes and effects of the July unrest.
The commission’s inspection of the affected areas will allow the panel of commissioners and legal team to compile evidence for a more thorough investigation into the unrest and also possibly discover new evidence.
Phoenix, and its surrounding areas of Bhambayi, Amaoti and Zwelitsha, were among the hardest hit areas that were engulfed by mass looting and violence which left about 36 people dead after the “free Jacob Zuma” riots broke out.
This past week, the panel heard testimonies from people who had suffered vicious attacks, who formed community protection zones as well as business chamber CEOs, who shared detailed insight into the events that unfolded, particularly, on July 12.
Some witnesses were of the view that the media had done a bad job of portraying the events of the July unrest, with some saying that police in KZN were asked to stand down and not use non-lethal crowd control measures even though they were equipped for it.
“I tend to speak to people like the brigadiers and captains, I have their cellphone numbers and there was no response. They had teargas but weren't allowed to use it themselves. We were alone helplessly watching this stuff unfold. The looting went on for days,” CEO of the Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Commerce Melanie Veness said.
“The hardest fact is that it was orchestrated. To see how people damaged water systems, pulled the line out of the ceilings, burnt the place,” Veness said, adding that the rioters spray painted derogatory slurs about President Cyril Ramaphosa on walls and cars around the CBD.
The allegedly orchestrated hit may have cost businesses billions in damages and further hurt the province’s ability to provide efficient services, but they also left many emotionally and physically scarred from the trauma experienced.
Ntethelelo Mkhize, a 37 year-old TVET college lecturer from Ntuzuma, laid bare before the SAHRC panel, his experience on July 12. He said he and eight other friends were racially profiled, searched and shot multiple times by men of Indian descent in the Phoenix area.
Three of Mkhize’s friends – Mzokhona Nzuza, 40, Mlamngi Nsele, 35, and Robert Jiyane, 40; were travelling in his vehicle at the time, died that day from their injuries sustained at the hands of their attackers.