Number of people arrested in connection with Phoenix killings increases to 31: Cele

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Police Minister Bheki Cele says the number of people, who have been arrested in connection with the killings at Phoenix, north of Durban, has increased to 31.

At least 36 people were killed in Phoenix during the unrest and looting last month. Cele was addressing residents of KwaMadlala informal settlement in Lamontville, south of Durban, on Sunday, at a community engagement following the death of a woman during a police operation to retrieve looted goods in the area.

The net is closing in on suspects wanted in connection with the Phoenix killings. Last week, 22 people were arrested and charged. Some of the suspects, that have already appeared in court, face multiple charges, including murder, attempted murder, possession of firearms, and ammunition.

As investigations continue, the special team of detectives has made more arrests. Cele says the number of people behind bars now stands at 31.

“People that have been arrested in Phoenix are now 31. Some of them you know they were 22 and they are added,  they will be going to court but all together they are 31.  We expect the number to grow, when it comes to the people that are regarded as instigators the figure has remained 12,  but that figure does not end there because there are many that have been identified and police are identifying more people going forward.”

Investigation into Shangase’s death  

Cele also met with the community at Lamontville after the death of 32-year-old Zamekile Shangase who was shot allegedly by police, during the stand-off with residents last month.

Shangase was amongst the bystanders, who witnessed police operations. It is believed that during the same incident, police officers, who conducted operations came under attack from community members, who allegedly mobilised each other and blocked the exit points to the township with stones and proceeded to slash the tyres of the police vehicles, attacking SAPS members.

Community members have called for a thorough investigation into Shangase’s murder.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate has taken over investigations. Cele has urged residents of KwaMadlala to come forward with information that will help the IPID investigation. He says results of the post-mortem and ballistic results will determine how Shangase was killed.

“I have spoken to the community which is quite angry, which is their right to be angry. The IPID is investigating the matter of the death, they haven’t yet come back with the results on that one. That’s the call I made to the community to say they must help us. We must find out what happened and whoever killed that person because the argument here is  that there was an exchange of fire and then for us to find out what exactly happened, we need the investigation.”

Minister Bheki Cele engages with Lamontville residents: 

Despite this incident, Cele says they will continue with their operations.

“There was a portion of stolen live ammunition there. So there is no way police cannot come and do the investigations. It’s unfortunate that there was that resistance here. The call we will make as soon as we discover what happened here that police, even under those trying times, will remain calm. There is no way we can retreat when we are told there are guns here and live ammunition. Our information was that hence there was an exchange of fire. Hence we are investigating.”

The nine suspects are expected to appear in court this week.