Police Minister General Bheki Cele. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
Police Minister General Bheki Cele. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Team of top detectives to probe deaths that occurred in Phoenix during unrest

By Jehran Naidoo Time of article published Jul 19, 2021

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DURBAN - A team of top South African Police Service detectives have been assigned to investigate the deaths of 20 people who were killed in the Phoenix area during the unrest that took place last week across parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Police Minister General Bheki Cele said over the weekend that Phoenix residents should not allow criminal elements to hijack their efforts of trying to protect themselves.

The minister said that the team of 10 detectives will also focus their investigation on the alleged involvement of local SAPS members and private security companies in the violence.

“Residents have the right to defend themselves within the law,” Cele said.

However, he said that if people were racially profiled at roadblocks set up in the area for simply trying to access Phoenix and were intimidated or in extreme cases beaten up and their cars searched and torched, this was "simply criminal“.

"Those who commit these criminal acts will be found and dealt with, regardless of who they are and where they come from,” Cele said in a statement.

Chaos ensued early last week in KZN after a group of supporters of former president Jacob Zuma protested against his 15-month jail sentence at the Estcourt prison after he was found guilty of contempt of court by the Constitutional Court last month.

The protesters resorted to mass looting and arson, burning down malls and businesses in townships and major industrial and commercial areas.

Following the destruction of major malls and warehouses around KZN, rioters tried to enter residential areas but were met by community members who had formed various outposts around their neighbourhood amenities and homes.

After the clash between rioters and community members, which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries, racial tensions were sparked between the black and Indian communities of KZN, particularly the Phoenix area.

MEC for Community Safety Peggy Nkonyeni said last week that she was concerned about reports of racial tensions amid the mass looting and destruction, urging residents to work with the police and avoid taking matters into their own hands.

Cele said that there were “sinister” forces at play using fake news to manipulate the situation. He said there were manipulated videos where audio had been edited to be inflammatory against Phoenix residents.

Cele spent the weekend in the eThekwini district, engaging with affected residents in Phoenix, Bhambayi, Umakoti and Zwelisha, where he urged the members of the communities to form civil groups to reconcile their differences.


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