Violent protests, riots and looting rocked South Africa in July for more than a week, leaving more than 300 dead and hundreds of businesses destroyed.
Amid the unrest, historical racial tensions between African and Indian communities exploded in Phoenix – a predominantly ethnically Indian town on the outskirts of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal province.
Groups of Indian residents in Phoenix and surrounding areas formed vigilante groups to protect their property. Allegedly armed with semiautomatic rifles, machetes and pistols, the groups formed illegal roadblocks and burned tyres to bar access to their areas.
These initiatives, Police Minister Bheki Cele said, gave birth to the “heinous criminal and racist incidents that resulted in brutal killings and injuries, horrendous damage to property, and untold pain and trauma”.
Thirty-six people died in Phoenix during the unrest.
According to police minister Cele, 33 people have been arrested for the killings that took place during the week of riots in Phoenix. He said that a 31-member detective team was working with a team of prosecutors to ensure justice for the lives lost in Phoenix.
“Police investigations found that 36 people were killed in Phoenix, 30 people were shot, two were burned to death, one was stabbed and one was run over,” he said.
Community activists, however, insist that the real number of deaths is almost double the official toll.