Political interference was allegedly hindering peacekeeping efforts in Phoenix and surrounding communities as hate speech, racist utterances continue to instil fear.
Community leaders want those who continue to incite violence, further causing division, to step aside and allow them to reunite all races.
The EFF march in Phoenix against “racist Indians” on Thursday was highly criticised and labelled a political point-scoring event.
Thousands of EFF supporters led by the party’s secretary-general, Marshall Dlamini, marched from Gandhi Luthuli Peace Parkin the area to the Phoenix police station to hand over their memorandum of demands.
Addressing the crowds outside the police station, Dlamini accused mayor Mxolisi Kaunda of neglecting the black communities of Bhambayi, Amawoti and Zwelisha in Inanda, which were affected during the unrest.
“He has never visited this community,” he said. “The racist Indians went to burn the houses of our people, so councillors of the EFF you must go and tell Kaunda that he must rebuild the houses of our people. This mayor is working with these racist Indians and racist white people. Our people need a government that takes their side.”
Dlamini further accused state security forces of taking the position of private security for big business by conducting raids reserved for poor black people. He encouraged followers to choose and occupy land that was available and to invade farms with their livestock.
Mervin Govender, president of the Phoenix Residents Association, said politicians were not for peacekeeping efforts, but their intention was to garner votes for the local elections. He said, although some kind of normality had returned, both Indian and African communities were still living in fear.
“The politicians are stoking the flames and dividing us. We want people to feel safe in the community. I often put myself in the position of our neighbours in Bhambayi, Amawoti and Zwelisha and Inanda, they are afraid to come into Phoenix and it shouldn’t be that way. We have the freedom of movement enshrined in our Constitution,” he said.
“We are trying to rebuild, we have Bishop Rubin Phillip in the area, a school project co-ordinated by Mayibuyi Youth Organisation and us leaders who are trying to ensure that residents have food security. All these organisations are trying their utmost best, but it’s people who do not live in the community or understand the dynamics and it is politics that are (sic) interfering.”
Govender said, “massacre” was an improper term to describe what happened in Phoenix and that a thorough investigation was required to determine where those who died were coming from, which political parties they were affiliated with, as many outsiders were brought into Phoenix to cause destruction.
“They said, 36 people died and the narrative is that Indians are racist. We can’t paint everybody with the same brush. Politicians who were involved need to be held accountable.”
Siviwe Benya, chairperson of Mayibuyi Youth Organisation, said a number of parents with pupils enrolled in Phoenix schools were afraid to let their children go back to school. As such, some principals had approached them to assist in convincing parents to allow their children to return.
“Majority of the learners from schools such as Brookdale Secondary School come from the surrounding settlements,” he said. “The principal at Rydal Park Secondary School has also approached us to negotiate with some parents who wanted their kids to leave school. There is a concern about matric exams which learners had started preparing for. We are trying to pick up the pieces so we can go back to normal life.”
Benya said the first step to healing and true unity was for the community of Phoenix to acknowledge that there were racial tensions.
Police Minister, Bheki Cele, said investigations had revealed that 30 of those killed were shot, two were burnt to death, while one was stabbed, and another was run over by a motor vehicle. Two others died from injuries sustained after being assaulted.
“Police are investigating 52 cases of attempted murder, probing nine cases of common assault, and 16 cases of assault,” said Cele. “I want to be very clear about this. What happened in Phoenix were criminal acts of the worst kind which also took a racial turn. These acts have no place in our society and the perpetrators will be arrested and prosecuted.”
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