As KwaZulu-Natal picks up the pieces after the recent unrest, residents in the mixed-race township of Phoenix are dealing with allegations of racism.
Traffic is flowing freely on the streets of Phoenix and Amaoti, north of Durban. Although they are traditionally Indian and Black areas, these communities are somehow intertwined.
Children from surrounding townships attend schools in Phoenix and 70% of the learners of Foresthaven Secondary School in Phoenix are African.
Doctor BP Singh taught at the school when it started admitting Black learners after 1994.
He says Foresthaven fostered cultural inclusivity and diversity.
“Twenty seven years ago to say that our community here is an enlightened and a transformed one, we were able to break the racial bearers of the apartheid days not on rhetoric speech but also the way this school operated and I think that a very important point that we have little challenges now and then but fundamentally this society and this school community represent a true South Africa where we don’t look at people around racial lines. We look at all being equal. This particular school while it is situated in the Phoenix so called Indian area seventy percent of the schooling population are our South African, African students. ”
But Phoenix albeit rich in diversity has now been tainted by allegations of racism. As looters ran amok in the area, claims of racist attacks by Indian people started circulating on social media.
These attacks and murders were brought to the attention of authorities. This saw Minister of Police Bheki Cele visit the area in an attempt to quell tensions.
Professor Paulus Zulu of the Race Relations Unit at the University of Kwazulu-Natal says racial tensions were fanned by the instigators of the unrest.
“It is easy to call it a race war, because after all this is what the organisers of the mayhem would have liked to see. I believe they would have shot at anybody. It just so happened that the people who were there and looting were Africans.”
Zulu urged citizens not to fuel racial tension, saying it is a ploy to destabilise the country.
“As South Africans we must by all means make sure, that before we make pronouncement – particularly dangerous pronouncements that might create disorder in the country we know the facts clearly, or we conduct a proper analysis. There is a fatal ground, for mutiny. That once you organise on that fatal ground for your own purposes, which was the case in this instance. The mutiny might take any direction, it’s like a dam that is overflowing and there isn’t any channel to cause way where the water might have to go, it goes all over and this is what the organisers of this mutiny wanted to do.“
Victims of the unrest are left with permanent scars.
Alisha Bhagwti from Phoenix says her mother was hit in the head by a stray bullet whilst preparing super.
“She was shot during the unrest and she is in hospital she survive the ordeal, its criminal elements. It’s a time to rebuild and try and move on from what happened. “
A man, who wishes to remain anonymous, recalls the night he was shot at.
“I was coming from work when I passed four Indian males the next thing I heard was gunshots towards me. I am now I’m injured and I have several wounds on my body. All I want is for police to investigate and find the culprits.”
A social cohesion advocate, Dr Rajendra Govender, says racial rifts need to be dealt with.
“The people themselves need to tell us exactly what they want going forward in terms of racial disharmony, yes this looting also there was an element of racial tensions especially in Phoenix, Chatsworth and other places. Now we need to find out how can we overcome this racial disharmony what needs to be done where did we go wrong as a society because I am not an Indian I am a South African for example. I am a very proudly South African citizen; we need to embrace one another we need to work on finding solutions.”
Police are investigation the death of 20 people in Phoenix as residents rebuild their lives.
Minister Cele addresses the Phoenix community in KwaZulu-Natal: