Conflict mediations follow up on the KZN Unrest and Phoenix Massacre

Following the unrest that happened in KZN in July month, Africa Unite peer educators conducted consultation follow-ups in the affected areas. The consultations aimed at building relations between different groups/races and influential key local community members to get they buy in and support. To also Break the negative attitudes towards our future interventions and to get insights of the situation and conduct a mapping of the conflicts. With these consultations we managed to reach both males and females, young and old from both Indian and black communities. We met +- 50 Indians and +- 20 blacks.

These consultations provided an opportunity to Youth Human Rights Peer educators to get full insights of what really happened during the unrest so that they can device an informed programme that will help decrease ignorance, suspicion, prejudice and stereotyping between people in conflicts. This method of consultation seemed to address the underlying issues that keep bringing conflicts and help move parties away from confrontations and violence as well as building social harmony.

The consultation aimed to meet and have conversation with prospective People from Government institutions, Police /legislation, Business/private sector, Media, Traditional leaders, religious leaders, Academia and other NGOs and other existing respected structures.

Our consultations responded to the below questions

  • What kind of work you do? what are the main challenges in your work?                                                                     
  • What are your views on the incidents of the unrest in July 2021
  • What, in your view can be done to find durable solution

We started our day at the Community safety office with Mr shobede the Deputy Director at Department of Community Safety and Liaison, who has then elaborated further of their duties as an office of safety who had the mentioned some of their roles in communities which are Making sure that police are held accountable for their deeds which is one problem we face as a country we are not taken serious at police stations and that means we end up taking law into our own hands they also focus on domestic violence – they visit police stations to see whether they adhere to  policies put in place. There is privacy in police stations, and also, they look at occurrence book to see if cases are attended to and the book is signed by junior officer but there is a time where a senior has to sign to see whether they are capturing correct information, look proper books whether it’s captured in correctly, also see if service delivery within police stations to the community is on a standard level and if one is not certified with the service, they can then report them to crime prevention unit.

They also have partnered with communities and formed groups such as Juluka tsotsi, Abaphelezeli, Vimba Phambili and many others  he also mentioned that they work with other organisations to implement dialogues, awareness campaign, capacity building workshops  and they also do social cohesion programs, hence their focus is mostly on safety  hence during this time with what they have they have been working with most affected communities such as Chatsworth, Isipingo, Bayview, bluff, Phoenix, Montclair, Malukazi and Kwamakhutha. They have set in peace committees in some of this communities hence he mentioned that some of these communities are contributing factors to “GBV” murders which they work as hard as they can to monitor such and also did some peace building workshops to at least balance the situation he has also mentioned a lot regarding the cases they which are dated back to 2015 Xenophobic attacks, taxi violence and uber drivers pirating in the Umlazi area which they manage to bring about mutual understanding an peace.

Community Safety and Liaison have been on the ground since day one of the unrest and they have been following up on all related cases. One of the highlights during the unrest was the absence of South African Police Service, which Mr Shobede briefly explained to us that, SAPS is short staffed and sort resources which made it very difficult for them to contain the situation. They used rubber bullet until they were finished, and they had nothing more they can do. Our government need to relook the issues of resources and staffing for SAPS. Then the issue of intelligent, we say we have intelligent if the country, people who are easily identified that this person works for intelligent, that is not the intelligent we need, we need to have people who you can’t recognize, we also need to relook our intelligent recruitment system and how they work in other for the country to be able to prevent such things in the future.

The issues and tensions between Indian and black people have been going on for a long time and this unrest just exposed it. These racial tensions need us as community leaders and organisation to work together in trying to find the roots causes first then rushing to say we a want to bring about peace and social cohesion. We need to identify the what and the why first. Some say it the issue of skin and some are saying it the issue of class and we also have some saying it the issue of service delivery and inequalities. Then you can’t deal with all this together, but we need to identify the main cause and then we can try and address the issue if we know where it is coming from. As the department we are running social cohesion programs which we would like you as the organisation to be part of, we also conducting conflict resolution workshop for young people in different communities so it will be wise for Africa Unite peer educators to also be part of these workshop so that we have people in different communities who we know they can resolve conflict.

We then Visited phoenix and spoke to a young ambitious lady by the name of Pamela  who runs an organisation called Woman Pact with a huge following on social media  which also advocates for  woman in leadership at the same time they have been working hard to deracialise the situation (unrest) hence the want to produce active citizen they have been working hard visiting schools trying to restore hope and unity withing young boys and girls specially multi-racial schools since a lot of parents have been insecure about sending their kids to school since the unrest she has shown us a number of projects she been running in her community to also uplift the young girls who has talent, skills and passion.

They suggested that we conduct a session together in Bhambayi where they will donate dignity pack to young girls in the community. Also, they are conducting heritage celebration where they will be having Indians and black people in the event to celebrate their diversity, learn from each other and try bringing peace. Africa Unite is invited to be part of the program.

We also Visited Bhambayi Community where we met Mr Chris Biyela who is a community activist and who has been very active in the community trying to fight the current cases of the phoenix tragedy where innocent black people were murdered by some of the Indian Criminals.  Chris expressed that the community is still wounded, and the Indian community don’t want to admit their faults and also the Government Don’t want to take charge and let justice prevail. there have been arrests made by the SAPS of 56 people, there were recoveries of 168 unlicenced arms,13 Security companies are being investigated and more than 140 guns were taken to forensics. Those are linked to murder cases and on the 15 September, they are appearing the at Verulam Court. It will be very wise for Africa Unite to also be part of the proceedings of the case, you will need to gain accreditation and follow proper channels to be part. He also mentioned that Indians still have arrogance, still they haven’t come to a point of remorse, they dispute that there are racial tensions and crime was only committed.  

Therefore, than black communities are saying how do you then speak of social cohesion when these people are in denial. Not only that the victims are not interested of engaging nor speaking anything on cohesion, but their wounds are fuelled with spirit they need justice – Victims feel that government has let them down during this painful moment as people lost their livelihood, and resources.

The current task team that what was elected during the meeting with minister of police, cannot negotiate peace yet until justice is prevail. he also mentioned that Indians are not safe to come into Bhambayi as one of one Indian guy was killed on the 2nd of Septembers in Bhambayi.

We need to work together and advocate those inequalities are real in these areas and treatments for Indian Communities is better than treatment for Black communities, yet we share the same Constitution. Indians receives proper service delivery, and their issues are addressed quickly compared to Blacks, the economy of our country is held by Indians especially in Durban. Most tenders are being awarded to Indians and local people are segregated in business sector and we need to question the supply chain. We need to heal as blacks and not to be treated as buggers due to hunger, poverty. We have local schools which are filled with Indian staff members and our kids are being thought Afrikaans instead of isizulu, but the same people claim they are not racist, and this was only a criminal act by black people.

We then moved to Ntuzuma where we met with Pastor Mpofana who has been one of the people involved in assisting affected community members in Lindelani. 8 families lost their loved ones and Pastor made sure that he is there to assist with whatever he can offer, from food parcels, arranging burials and even assisting with finances towards funerals.  He mentioned that the church is supposed to be playing a very big and important role in making sure that there is peace and stability in the community. What has happened is totally out of hand, but it did not catch us by surprise as we have been looking at the state of the country and praying that it should get better. Our people are very frustrated, and they have had enough. What happened also opened our eyes as church leaders that we need to be involved addressing issues faced by the community. We need to work with relevant stakeholders and community members to make sure there is peace our communities. Our people should not go to bed hungry while we are here as churches and lastly churches need also to come together and work together for the betterment of our communities.

We than moved to Chatsworth on the 9th of September and we have managed to bring together at least 40 to 50 Indian people under one roof. Well one Indian indicated that it has been tough time in KwaZulu Natal and some parts of Gauteng, but Chatsworth is one of the multi-racial communities which also ended up divided more than it was before due to the racial tension that took place in the past month where at least 22 plus black people were murdered and 30 plus people ended in hospitals.

The Unrest which has played both a positive and a negative role but today we spoke of how has it impacted our lives, the people have spoken out on how illegal it was for the people to take law into their hands nobody had the right to murder another person at the same time nobody have the right to take what’s lawfully not theirs  but one of the participant raised a very important note that these people who were part of the looting had a leader, a person who instigated this whole thing and some said it is the arrest of our former president Jacob Zuma, some said it’s because of hunger, poverty, and criminality.

We also have someone who spoke about the Government stealing 500 billion and the country went quite about that, but poor people took things to survive, things they always wanted to buy, and they had to lose their lives. Sad part, instead of the Police attending to brutal killing in phoenix and Chatsworth they busy with door to door collecting food from the poor.

Participants mentioned some of the key things that led to unrest, and they are as follow:

  • Unemployment
  • Lawlessness
  • Frustration with government
  • Political reasons

They also mentioned what need to be done for this thing to not happen again or to try and bring peace.

  • Equal Employment opportunities for everyone
  • Social cohesion events in the grassroot and make sore there are affected people and there is diversity.
  • Prompt response and presence of police when there are unrests/strikes.
  • Work together as communities to hold government accountable.

We then met with Molly Govender who is the chairperson of the Golden Oldies Club. Molly is one of the influential elder in the Chatsworth community and she has been on the ground since the unrest, helping people who are in need. She said she was very disappointed with what happened during the July month. Looking at the state of the country the unrest and looting was bound to happen but what frustrated her the most was how her fellow Indian brothers did to black people. Innocent people were murdered like no body’s business. I totally acknowledge that there has always been tension between blacks and Indians, but it has never gone this far in my lifetime, and I am totally against what happened. She also said she is happy that we as the organisation are doing something about this but she stressed that we need to work together in making sure that even such diverse communities’ people are able to tolerate each and live-in harmony but we as Indian community need to acknowledge that what we did was totally wrong, even if you know you did not kill or hurt anyone but as Indian people, we need to take responsibility of what we have done and fix it.

We need to have the oldies teaching the young one’s on how far they have gone in life and what they did to get this far. We need multicultural event where we will have both blacks and Indians together celebrating their diversity and learning from each other. As it is September we can work together and host a celebration of diversity as a start.

Way forward

  • We Joined Partners and will be working together with the stakeholder we met
  • Attend as Celebration of diversity in Phoenix on the 17th of September
  • Conducting a Heritage celebration on the 30th of September in Chatsworth
  • We are following the court case in Verulam
  • Peer educators to attend Conflict resolution workshops
  • Visit schools together to educate learners about togetherness, Human rights, and Ubuntu.
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