MOST of the suspects linked to the murders in Phoenix were allegedly bogus security guards.
This emerged in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Monday where the 10 suspects made their first appearance. After hours of delay, the suspects appeared, but proceedings were held in camera, with only court staff present, because they are expected to undergo an identification parade on Thursday.
Suspected looters were allegedly shot by residents manning barricades at intersections in Phoenix. Fake news, vigilantism and a lack of police presence stoked racial tension in the area and at least 20 people were killed during the violence.
A senior prosecutor, who was specially assigned to the case from the Durban High Court and declined to be named, told the Daily News that most of the suspects were allegedly running unregistered security companies, which was why they were also charged with the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.
He said one suspect had been released on R2 000 bail, and was charged with the possession of stolen property.
National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Natasha Kara said other suspects faced various charges including attempted murder, murder, malicious damage to property and the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition. She said the matter had been adjourned until Friday where the suspects would formally apply for bail.
The State said it would oppose bail.
Security was tight in and outside the court on Monday as metro and SAPS officers assisted by SANDF soldiers cordoned off George Sewpersadh Street and Court Lane.
The army patrolled the court precinct throughout the day while the SAPS public order unit stood guard between two opposing groups who were there to support the suspects and victims’ families respectively.
Alice Govender, who led a group of Phoenix residents, said they had decided to come and support their fellow community members who had been arrested for protecting them and the community.
One group carried placards with the slogan “All lives matter”, picketing silently, while a group of ANC and EFF supporters chanted Struggle slogans.
ANC National Youth League Task Team spokesperson Sizophila Mkhize blamed the ANC government for failing to address racial inequalities between blacks and Indians in the province, particularly in Durban.
She said that what was being seen now could have been prevented if the government had not ignored the racial imbalances among these groups.
“The ‘rainbow nation’ never existed between Indians and Africans, particularly here in KZN. The apartheid government treated Indians as second-class citizens, and under the democratic government they still receive the same treatment.
“We thought there would be at least one minister or MEC here to speak about the racial tension that’s taking place between blacks and Indians here in court. We cannot allow two racial groups facing off like this because it is dangerous for society,” said Mkhize.