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Govt probe into Phoenix cases looks at police top brass, four security firms

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The government is probing the Phoenix police station and its top brass while at the same time investigating the dirty role allegedly played by four local security companies in the Phoenix murders.

Police Minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi / ANA

DURBAN – The government is probing the Phoenix police station and its top brass while at the same time investigating the dirty role allegedly played by four local security companies in the Phoenix murders that left 36 people dead and scores injured.

The top priority investigation will be carried out by a special team of 31 top detectives drawn from national and provincial levels and was announced by Police Minister Bheki Cele on Tuesday, while he was addressing the media at Inanda police station in the north of Durban.

Cele detailed how the killings happened and further expressed shock that some of those who were killed were either shot or hacked to death and some were even burnt.

Cele said that, so far, 22 people are in custody and facing prosecution for their role in the killings.

He said that 33 of those who were killed were black people from KwaMashu, Zwelisha, Amaoti, Inanda and Bhambayi, which are predominantly African townships around Phoenix in the north of Durban. Only three of the victims were of Indian ancestry. The number could still rise as investigations are still ongoing.

The press conference was also jointly addressed by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala, who said most of those who were killed were innocent people who were passing by Phoenix when the attempted looting and killings started on July 12.

At Cele’s side, Zikalala vowed that all the private security companies would be held accountable, and all those who lost their loved ones should be assured that justice would be served.

“Detectives are investigating the role of private security firms in the violence. The response of the local SAPS to these events will also be looked into. Working closely with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), the team of investigators has seized (152) firearms from four private security companies working in the area.

“One-hundred-and-12 illegal firearms have also been seized during police operations in Phoenix. The seizure of these firearms is within the ambit of the Firearms Controls Act, and the firearms have been sent for ballistic analysis,” Cele said.

He added that he could not comment on allegations that four police officers from the Phoenix police station took all the illegal firearms confiscated during raids and distributed them to vigilante groups that staged illegal roadblocks under the guise of protecting their properties and businesses from looters.

“There are issues and questions raised … issues wrongly done by our own members, and we did say the investigation is continuing, Ipid (Independent Police Investigative Directorate) is part of that, but police themselves are investigating some of these cases.

“So until we really find out what is the story there we will not be able to comment. But rest assured that investigations are going on and those investigations the public will know what exactly happened… as soon as the result are found,” he said when asked when they were going to suspend police officers fingered in wrongdoing.

It has also been repeatedly alleged that some SAPS officers who are residents of the township used state cars and firearms to kill people.

Meanwhile, Zikalala said KwaZulu-Natal, the epicentre and the flashpoint of the looting and violence, suffered economic damage worth R2.1 billion, and they have since asked the national government to help as the budget is too heavy to be carried by the province alone.

“These figures are not final and are expected to grow. We can confirm that with the work done so far, the situation is beyond the provincial and municipal capacity to deal with the cost of public riots and unrest as reported; We have therefore recommended to submit for classification to the national disaster management centre in terms of section 23(1)(b) of the Disaster Management Act. The declaration of a provincial state of disaster will support the re-prioritisation of budgets to implement the repairs and recovery programmes.”

Political Bureau

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