Phoenix community barricade a road to prevent looters from entering the community. Picture: KZN VIP - Phoenix Crime Watch.
Phoenix community barricade a road to prevent looters from entering the community. Picture: KZN VIP - Phoenix Crime Watch.

Security companies to be probed for their conduct during unrest

By Itumeleng Mafisa, Kailene Pillay, Ntombi Nkosi Time of article published Jul 22, 2021

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The Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) is investigating the conduct of security companies during the violent unrest in parts of the country recently.

PSIRA chief executive Sam Chauke said the organisation had received complaints about the conduct of some security officials, ranging from racism to intimidation and harassment.

The authority is also investigating videos showing people allegedly being shot by members of a security company. The flare-up left more than 200 people dead in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Chauke said the unrest had taken everyone by surprise, but it was important for security companies to conduct themselves in a manner that showed respect for human rights and the rule of law. He said the complaints he had received were mainly from the four black townships around Phoenix.

“They have shared with us some videos where people are being shot at by a security company from the back of a bakkie; we have received a list of complaints where we are yet to intervene.”

Chauke said security companies that created roadblocks in parts of Durban did not have the right to do so. He said there were also concerns about some of the ammunition that was brandished at roadblocks.

“Those we are going to punish. It is illegal to do those things for security companies, they can’t stop people and they can’t harass people so if we find that people have done so, we are going to have to deal with them. We understand that people had to protect their properties but where the law was abused we are going to deal with them,” Chauke said.

He said the security industry was unprepared for the scale and violence that was unleashed. He confirmed that firearms may be seized from some security companies and communities around Durban.

“We are looking at the conduct, we could withdraw their certificate or we could sanction a fine, it depends on how they have contravened the law,” Chauke said.

Meanwhile, Bishop Rubin Phillip has added his voice to the growing calls for accountability in the aftermath of the unrest-related murders, looting and destruction that stunned the nation.

Civil society organisations and political and community activists have also called for the arrests of those responsible for the murders.

At least 234 people were killed in KZN and Gauteng, with concerns over racial tension between African and Indian communities in KZN, which claimed the lives of 22 people in Phoenix.

The figure was confirmed by the Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni on Wednesday.

Phillip, who serves as deputy chairperson on the KZN Social Cohesion Council, said the racial divisions being reported in Phoenix were not a true reflection of the entire community and that the “mischief makers” needed to be handed over to the police.

Speaking to Independent Media, Phillip said reconciliation needed to be the principal aim. He made a desperate plea to community leaders to play a more active role in building bridges across the divides.

“We need to put behind us the wrongs that have been committed and work to build a new community to live together as friends,” he said.

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said that the police had put in place resources to investigate the cases and arrest the killers. “Many say this was a massacre, this is because too many people died at once,” Zikalala had said.

IFP chief whip in eThekwini, Mdu Nkosi, has warned communities not to play into someone else’s political agenda by creating divisions among themselves.

Nkosi has appealed to communities, especially in Phoenix, to work in harmony and collaboration in pointing out the criminals, and to refrain from destroying good relations in the process.

“We cannot allow extremists to take control. Community groups must work with the police, but they cannot take the law into their own hands,” Nkosi said.

DA KZN leader Francois Rodgers said those fuelling racial divisions in the community were “weak”. He also called on the police to act swiftly against those who had committed murder.

“We strongly condemn any racist opportunists who are using this anarchy to drive racist agendas. We are a rainbow nation and should be protecting each other.”

Peace activist Ela Gandhi, who was born in the Phoenix settlement in the Inanda district, added her voice to the calls for peace in the area.

“The majority of people who live there want peace. It is the extremists who need to be found and dealt with by the police,” she said.

Even retired Judge Thumba Pillay echoed the call for peace and calm. Judge Pillay urged people not to take the law into their own hands and called for the perpetrators to be arrested. He said he was “extremely upset” that this had taken such a racial overtone, and that the problems were much deeper as they rose out of factionalism, poverty, homelessness, and unemployment.

He said that politicians were concentrating on factionalism, rather than the suffering of the people.

“We call on all communities to restrain and think about our glorious past where we’ve worked together and fought for freedom. Let us not spoil it with this criminal behaviour.”

In a peaceful march to Phoenix police station on Wednesday morning, Bishop Vusi Dube said religious leaders had taken it upon themselves to remind South Africans that “black lives matter”.

The Star

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