Police Minister Bheki Cele has labelled Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen a “brainless political thug” with “no conscience” after Steenhuisen said his party was unapologetic for controversial election posters the party put up in Phoenix, north of Durban.
The posters read: “The ANC called you racists” and “The DA calls you heroes”.
This is in relation to the deaths of more than 30 people who were killed and more than 50 who were left injured in the area back in July during violent unrests that erupted after former president Jacob Zuma’s arrest.
Cele said he had always had doubts about the DA leader but this was confirmed after the posters went up earlier this week.
In Phoenix 36 people were killed, among them young women, young men, old people, “in a very painful way”, said Cele.
“Even to an extent that they [relatives] were not allowed to go and identify [them] in the mortuary.
“Even when they are dead they are not allowed to be to be seen.
“For you to come and put extra salt of racism on this matter… I have always had doubts about Steenhuisen. I don’t have a doubt now, I am flabbergasted, to me he is nothing else, he is a thug, he is a political criminal that the nation must deal with as such, he has no conscious [sic], he has no brains whatsoever – for him not to find a problem [with] what happened in Phoenix.”
Cele said the team of investigators that was assembled to probe the murders had been hard at work, with 56 people already arrested so far.
“One of the people that is arrested there, he is facing six murders of innocent people that had nothing to do with what was happening. Their sin was that they were on the highway.”
On Wednesday, Steenhuisen said he would not apologise for the election posters after they were labelled “shameful and fascist in nature” by the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.
He said his party was merely defending South Africans who stood up for the rule of law.
“The people are heroes. The people that are heroes are the South Africans that, when government retreated and Saps [South African Police Service] retreated, stood up and defended the rule of law, defended the Constitution, and defended their lives and livelihoods. Those are heroes.”
“I will call them heroes and I’ll continue to call them heroes because they did not retreat in the face of danger, they did not hide away like the Saps and Bheki Cele’s people.”
Additional report by Gareth Cotterell