Racial tensions running high in Phoenix as community guards against looting

Racial tensions are running high in Phoenix, one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods in KwaZulu-Natal where as many as 20 people have been killed in the violence.

Police Minister Bheki Cele accompanies SAPS officials in Durban as they apprehend looters at warehouses near the N2. Picture: Lirandzu Themba.

JOHANNESBURG – KwaZulu-Natal is increasingly facing a humanitarian disaster.

Fuel is being rationed due to shortages and disruptions to supply lines have made staples like bread and other food scarce.

Racial tensions are running high in one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods in KwaZulu-Natal where as many as 20 people have been killed in the violence.

Phoenix is a predominately Indian area and neighbouring suburbs are predominantly black.

Over the course of the past seven days, one of the narratives doing the rounds in the community has been that looters were directed to target Indian areas.

On Sunday night, when mobs of looters targeted large warehouses on the borders of Phoenix, some spilled over into the neighbourhood.

Days on, the area was still tense, with suburban streets resembling warzones.

Resident Nazrene Ebrahim explained: “The residents here have taken up the responsibility of being guards. In my particular street, there are barricades and civilians are standing guard and we have guards at every internal suburban road.”

Police Minister Bheki Cele has on Thursday visited the area and said that it was important to nip ugly racial tensions in the bud.

He said that he was confident that order and stability would soon be restored, because of extra police deployments and the presence of the SANDF.

However, Ebrahim said they'd seen little of that presence and the situation was far from stabilising.

“They haven’t stayed in one particular area to defuse tensions, they’ve just driven around. There is, however, no full-time deployment and tensions are being stoked here due to the fact that people are panicking. There is paranoia and there is a lot of fake news going around.”

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