A monument and peace garden will be built to commemorate the 36 victims of the Phoenix massacre in July and the affected communities.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala has made this announcement at a peace march from Phoenix to the neighbouring township of Bhambhayi in the north of Durban. It is alleged racially motivated attacks took place in the area during the widespread unrest and looting in various parts in the metro and KwaZulu-Natal.

Meanwhile, various initiatives have been launched to heal the rifts caused by the killings.

Zikalala says the monument will bear the names of all the victims of the Phoenix massacre. After a symbolic peace march of about a hundred people through the streets of Phoenix to the neighbouring Bhambhayi, white pigeons were released as a sign of peace.

Zikalala has called people from various communities to join in efforts to bridge economic and racial divides.

“Tougher legislation and sentences alone will not get rid of deep-seated roots of violence. We need to return to the source and begin to promote sanity for human lives in our families, (and) in our communities. The foundation is the family, and we must build from our families,” says Zikalala.

After community committees were chosen in the wake of the July unrest to help steer peace efforts, the clergy were among those who have led discussions within communities.

Counselling has been provided to children who were too afraid to return to school.

Organisations have helped organise food hampers and make peace gardens.

Sham Maharaj from the Phoenix Ubuntu Forum says a sports tournament was so successful that it will become an annual Friendship Games.

“I’ve lived in Phoenix for more than 40 years and we tried to build a united community and we did so. And in one week in July … 10 days … this work that we had done for 40 years got washed away. We didn’t lose hope. We are here with the Ubuntu Forum in Phoenix, made up of more than 20 community organisations, to look at how we can join hands and rebuild our communities, our neighbouring communities of Bhambhayi,” says Sham Maharaj.

However, Chris Biyela from Bhambhayi says true healing will not be possible without going into the details of what happened and laying bare the truth.

“The fact is that we are injured internally. Because what happened, left internal scars; it left emotional scars. So, if you want peace, you need to heal those internal scars. Not by what what you are giving me, but by showing that you understand you hurt me emotionally; you hurt me internally. By so doing, we can say we are going somewhere,” says Biyela.

Bhambhayi community activist Blessing Nyuswa says the road to peace will be long and full of obstacles.

“Peace is good. Peace can be real. But peace doesn’t happen by itself. Peace needs people to build it and maintain it.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice will hold a healing programme at the weekend for the relatives of the victims of the massacre.

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