Traumatised victims of Phoenix unrest recount their horrific  ordeal

Johannesburg- Though the hearings around the racially motivated killings of more than 30 people in Phoenix are now littered with contradictions on whether it was pure thuggery or a massacre, one thing is certain for the families who lost their loved ones – the emotional trauma remains.

The South African Human Rights Commission last week commenced the hearings into the July unrest that engulfed KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng and left  scores of people dead.

The probe headed by advocate Andre Hurtley Gaum is tasked with investigating the circumstances that led to the mass murders, including investigating the political factors, the lapses in law enforcement and the economic and social conditions that might have given rise to the deadly confrontation. It is being held in Durban’s
Umhlanga and will conclude on December 3.

Nombuso Khoza, the grandmother of 19-year-old Sanele Mngomezulu, who was shot dead, has little hope that the hearings into the killings will console the grieving families.

“I decided not to be part of the hearings because to this day, the brutal death of my grandson still haunts me. I think about the aspirations that he had of becoming a videographer. Testifying in the hearings will worsen my deteriorating health because I will be forced to relive the pain,” said Khoza.

She described the killing of her grandson as a hate-filled onslaught.

“It was unprovoked and senseless, they killed him like a dog. They knew him because we have been residents of Phoenix for many years. He grew up in the area,” she said.

Mngomezulu’s lifeless body was found dumped next to the road on Trenance Park, a residential area in Phoenix.

When the unrest broke out leading to mass looting of shops, community members set up blockades and patrolled their neighbourhood, day and night. But security companies and residents manning checkpoints resorted to vigilantism, targeting people based on race.

Several victims of the Phoenix violence shared harrowing stories of how they stared death in the face.

Ntethelelo Mkhize, a university lecturer, recounted the brutal murder of his friends, Simiso Nsele, Mzokhona Nzuza and Robert Jiyane. Mkhize, a resident of Ntuzuma near Phoenix said he and his three friends were driving home in his bakkie when they were  ordered to stop by a group of heavily armed Indian men.

“They stopped us and demanded to search the vehicle, we complied. My friends were killed after they were ordered to open their mouths and a gun was inserted before being shot dead. I was terrified and shocked. They laughed and took pictures and some recorded videos of the deceased on the ground,” said Mkhize.

He said the mob ordered him to get out of his vehicle and run and then shot him several times. He was in a coma for three weeks.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala conceded at the hearing that the security agencies lacked capacity to deal with events similar to the July unrest. “The hiring of foreign nationals in many other industries like in the hospitality industry remains a sore point for many citizens and a threat to peace and stability in KwaZulu-Natal,” he warned.

 

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