Police Minister Bheki Cele has acknowledged that there are racial tensions in Phoenix, Durban, but attributes the violence that left several people killed, to mainly crime.
Cele visited the area on Thursday afternoon, 15 July 2021.
There were graphic images and videos of the bloodshed being circulated on social media, with many attributing the brutality to racial tensions between Indian and Black community members in that area.
“The primary problem here is criminality, there is a secondary problem which is the racial connotations that has happened,” Cele said.
“There are things like this that have happened in places including Umhlanga and Amanzimtoti where you are stopped because of who occupies the car. It is true. That problem cannot be dismissed, but criminality is primary for me,”
Police Minister Bheki Cele
Phoenix Violence: 20 people killed so far
Bheki Cele also announced that the number of people who were killed in the clashes in Phoenix was 20 – however he warned that the figure could rise. He says police are so far investigating 14 cases related to the violence.
“Some people are missing, so those bodies might go up,” Cele said.
The minister said the situation had improved from the previous day, when he had initially visited the area.
“I can see that tensions are better than what I found last night here,” he said.
Cele has defended police, who have been accused of failing to timeously respond to the lootings and violence.
“In KZN alone there are 1 400 people arrested and they did not walk into these cells. Failure is you saying to me that so much damage has happened, and you have arrested zero people. The arrests mean police have responded. I will concede it has taken a longer time that it would have been expected,” the minister also said.