The team of 31 detectives deployed to investigate the murders in Phoenix during last month’s violent protests and looting will also probe the role of police in the violence, Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Sunday.
“The team of 31 detectives deployed to investigate these heinous crimes, has to date arrested 36 suspects for the murders of innocent lives in Phoenix,” Cele said.
“This team is also investigating the role of police in the violence and looking closely into the role also played by seven private security companies operating in the area.”
Several firearms were confiscated from the private security firms and have been taken in for ballistic analysis, as part of ongoing police investigations, the police ministry said.
On Sunday, Cele led a series of feedback meetings in Phoenix and neighbouring settlements of Bhambayi, Umaoti, and Zwelisha. His office said that the communities welcomed the arrests of more suspects.
Police earlier said 36 people, of whom 33 were black and three of Indian descent, were killed in Phoenix during last month’s violent protests and looting which rocked KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Police Ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba said that Cele was accompanied by the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Commissioner Lt General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi and the provinces MEC of community Safety and Liaison Ms Peggy Nkonyeni as well as the Peace Committee made up of community representatives.
Speaking to the community, Cele assured them that the police would leave no stone unturned.
“It’s always been clear that people want peace but peace goes hand in hand with justice and I believe police have kicked off this process on a high note,” Cele said.
“The detectives are working closely with the prosecution team to ensure they put together solid cases that will see those found guilty, being put away for a long time.”
Last week, Cele said investigations had revealed that 30 of those killed were shot, two were burnt to death, while one was stabbed, and another was run over by a motor vehicle. Two others died from injuries sustained after being assaulted.
At the time, he said police were investigating 52 cases of attempted murder, probing nine cases of common assault, and 16 cases of assault.
“I want to be very clear about this. What happened in Phoenix were criminal acts of the worst kind which also took a racial turn. These acts have no place in our society and the perpetrators will be arrested and prosecuted,” Cele said.
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