More than 40 suspects have now been arrested in connection to the murders in Phoenix, KwaZulu-Natal, Police Minister Bheki Cele told Parliament.
During the virtual meeting, Cele noted the progress of the investigations into the 36 deaths in Phoenix, which has led to a total of 42 people being arrested to date.
“The team comprising [of] detectives from [the] national and provincial office[s] was deployed to KwaZulu-Natal to look into the deaths of 36 people that were killed around [Phoenix].
“This team has hit the ground running looking at the criminality and unfortunately the issue that took a racial [turn].
“The arrests have been widely welcomed by the communities of Zwelisha, Bhambayi and Mawothi where most of the victims resided. I must also say the communities of Phoenix have put in effort and in support of this team, hence 42 people have been arrested in connection with these crimes,” the minister said.
Private security firms
The minister reassured Parliament that police were still looking into the role of private security firms in the Phoenix killings.
According to Police Ministry spokesperson Lirandza Themba, seven firms at this stage are being investigated.
“So far seven of thses private security firm being probed. And as we know the police in their investigations have managed to seize over 100 firearms from these private security firms. This of course is part of an ongoing investigation, but to ascertain the involvement of these private security firms in the murders of the 36 people,” Themba told eNCA.
Some of the murders in Phoenix have been blamed on the victims being racially profiled.
Cele explained earlier this month, that community members in Phoenix had set up patrols in the neighbourhood’s streets after the rampant looting and violent unrest in parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
“The problem started when some people operating the checkpoints turned to vigilantism and started racially profiling people, preventing them entry into the suburb,” he said.
The minister said the action taken by the Phoenix community members led “to unlawful discrimination, and restriction of movement for mainly Africans”.
He had previously claimed that the violence in Phoenix had taken a “racial connotation”, but later backtracked on his remarks.