Durban - Stability and order may have returned to KwaZulu-Natal – a week after violent looting and attacks erupted – but officials have remained on high alert.
Premier Sihle Zikalala said they remained extremely concerned about the reported vigilante linked murders in Phoenix, Inanda and Verulam “in which at least 38 people are reported to have been killed by vigilante groups”.
So far, five people have been arrested in relation to the killings and more arrests are expected.
Minister of Police General Bheki Cele assigned a team of detectives from eThekwini to lead the investigations.
“Those who died in the unrest include Africans and Indians, although the proportion of Africans who died is much higher.
“We are satisfied with the progress of the investigations. However, we want to see the arrests of all those suspects linked to these senseless murders of civilians, many of who were travelling on the main roads,” Zikalala said.
He said they have since started a process towards engaging communities and have developed an intense Social Cohesion Programme to promote unity among Africans and Indians to ensure peace and harmony.
“The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster will continue its relentless pursuit to bring those responsible for these crimes to book,” he said.
In addition, Zikalala said SAPS and Metro Police were working with Community Policing Forum’s to remove roadblocks and ensure the roads were cleared for free movement.
He said that they have since asked the Security Cluster to conduct workshops on the legal framework which regulated the operation of neighbourhood watch forums. “Everyone must stick to this legal framework under the leadership of the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies,” he said.
In total, at least 251 people are reported to have died, and the police were investigating the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
The SAPS are investigating 163 cases of murder, 87 inquests dockets have been opened, and 20 arrests have been made for the unrest related murders.
The highest recorded number of deaths during the unrest were in eThekwini Metro, which recorded 110 murders, and this was followed by Pietermaritzburg, where 20 murders were reported.
Zikalala said the majority who died during the unrest had gunshot wounds and stab wounds, while others were badly assaulted.
Some people died from smoke inhalation and severe burn wounds because some warehouses that were looted were subsequently set alight while people were inside. Others died during stampedes as they fought each other over stolen goods.
“As of this morning, the total number of people arrested in the province over the recent looting is 2763. A majority of the suspects were arrested for being in possession of stolen goods,” Zikalala reported.