KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi has confirmed that additional police officers were deployed to Phoenix during July’s unrest. He was continuing with his testimony at the hearing by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
He says local police were overwhelmed and required additional deployment. Previous witnesses have told the hearing that they were stopped at barricades in Phoenix and assaulted by locals who accused them of being looters. The Commission questioned Mkhwanazi on his response to this.
“Upon realising what the realisation on what was going on in Phoenix, we felt that the station is under pressure and we needed to deploy more resources that were going to help stabilise the situation speedily in Phoenix specifically. We then had an extra deployment as I reflected yesterday (Tuesday) of additional police officers that where sent towards this Phoenix,” Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi explains.
Private security companies that were operating in Phoenix during the unrest have been accused of colluding with vigilante groups to attack people. Mkhwanazi elaborates on the relationship between police and some private security companies.
“So security companies they service the South African police in different forms. There are security companies that are more into the I.T space that assist us with technology and surveillance and the likes and there are security companies that will be providing some physical resources that help us in as far as human resources in terms of being eyes and ears of the South African Police Service where we need some assistance. So they provide different services and some of them they go as far as help us with the fleet, be it both in vehicles, aircraft that enables the South African police service to move from point A to point B,” Mkhwanazi added.
Mkhwanazi was questioned over whether the Phoenix Station commander should be held responsible for those who died in the area at the time. Over 30 people were killed in what is believed to be racially motivated attacks. Mkhwanazi says he does not believe that the Phoenix station commander is liable for those who died in Phoenix.
“I was talking about the accountability in as far as the number of people that died in Phoenix, 36 bodies, whether the station commander of Phoenix has been held accountable for those deaths? The station commander of Phoenix did not kill them neither the members of the station. These are the people that were killed many times in the majority of instances all without the presence of the police. So the police will only come to the scene when they are called or when they drive around and they see a dead body. So the question was about that dead body that was picked up on the street, Why is the police officer or station commander not being held accountable for that dead body?” Mkhwanazi elaborates.
VIDEO: SAHRC hearing into July unrest: 01 December 2021