Sunday World

Racial tensions in Phoenix claim teenager

About 20 black people killed by vigilante groups

- By Sandile Motha

The life of teenage Sanele Mngomezulu was this week cruely snatched in what appeared to be a racially motivated attack in Phoenix.

Mngomezulu from Terence Park in Phoenix was on his way home when he was allegedly fired on with a hail of bullets by vigilantes before his body was set alight and dumped in a veld.

About 20 people were reportedly killed in the racial tensions, which were apparently sparked by the looting of shops in Phoenix and the surroundin­g areas. The residents of the area mainly of Indian’s mobilised and formed vigilante groupings, which allegedly attacked and killed blacks.

The mass killings became known as the “Phoenix massacre”, with social media users condemning what is believed to have been racially motivated murders. Those who were killed were apparently accused by the vigilantes, who were armed to the teeth, of looting their businesses.

The residents subsequent­ly set up civilian roadblocks preventing blacks from accessing their neighbourh­ood. Vehicles

and property belonging to the black residents in the area were also torched in retaliatio­n.

Police Minister Bheki Cele, though conceding that the looting had created breeding ground for racial tensions, said police were considerin­g the murders as normal acts of criminalit­y in the province.

The severity of the tensions have also prompted Amazulu king in waiting Misuzulu kazwelithi­ni to call for restraint, fearing the resurgence of the 1949 violent confrontat­ions between Indians and Amazulus in the province, which claimed almost 150 lives.

Now that the dust has begun to settle and businesses are picking up the pieces in the aftermath of mass-scale destructio­n and looting of shops in Kwazulu-natal, the next challenge facing the government is confrontin­g the racial tensions in the province.

Xolani Dube, political analyst and senior researcher at Xubera Research Institute, said the racial tensions if not dealt with head-on had the potential to ignite a civil war.

“The recent killings of black people in the Phoenix area allegedly by people of Indian descent should concern the authoritie­s. There is a general feeling among the black community that they are under siege from white and Indian communitie­s. They accuse the racial groupings of ganging up against black South Africans. This is a recipe for disaster.”

He said the government’s wishy-washy approach on the deliberate economic marginalis­ation of poor black Africans was exacerbati­ng the hostile racial relations.

“For instance, in Durban there is no desire from the government to admit that the Indian community has for more than three decades dominated the critical economic sector in the province and that there was a desperate need for redress,” said Dube.

Mary de Haas, a violence monitor and researcher, pointed to the lack of police intelligen­ce on the ground.

“Police intelligen­ce services should have identified the threats well in advance but they failed dismally. The recent incidents of violence and looting also showed how vulnerable we are as a country, and as citizens,” said De Haas.

The next challenge facing government is confrontin­g racial tensions

 ?? SUPPLIED ?? Sanele Mngomezulu was killed in Phoenix this week.
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SUPPLIED Sanele Mngomezulu was killed in Phoenix this week. /

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