What happened in Phoenix are killings, not a massacre, SAHRC hears

Bulelani Nonyukela Junior audio producer
Sham Maharaj testifies at the SAHRC hearing.
Sham Maharaj testifies at the SAHRC hearing.
Image: Youtube screenshot

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearing  into the July 2021 unrest continues on Tuesday.

Phoenix Ubuntu Forum’s Sham Maharaj was the first witness to testify on Tuesday morning. The organisation was formed after the July unrest to assist those who had been badly affected.

Maharaj said what happened in the northern suburb of Durban during the unrest and looting were killings, not a massacre.

“The massacre thing got coined by the media [and] certain opportunistic members or politicians,” he said.

Listen to Maharaj's view:

After the unrest police minister Bheki Cele said: “The events in Phoenix claimed the lives of 36 people. Our investigation show 30 of those who were killed were shot, two were burnt to death, one was stabbed, another was run over by a motor vehicle and two others died from the brutal injuries they sustained after being assaulted,”

The commission expects to hear from six witnesses on Tuesday and from state witnesses next week. It will consider subpoenas should witnesses reject its invitations.

The commission is in the second day of the National Investigative Hearing into the July unrest.

The panel will inquire into, make findings, report on and make recommendations on:

  • the causes of the July unrest;
  • the alleged racially motivated attacks and killings following the unrest;
  • apparent lapses in law enforcement by state security agencies, particularly the police, and the role of private security companies in the unrest; and 
  • the social, economic, spatial and political factors prevalent in the affected areas and the extent to which these played a role in the unrest.

The hearing is set down for three weeks.

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