Council to reconcile Indian, Black people in S Africa

Council established to reconcile Indian, Black communities in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province

The tensions between the communities in the area arose after rampant looting and arson in the region

Residents of the township of Phoenix, north of Durban hold a #ALL Lives Matter peacefull protest rally. Credit: AFP Photo

The premier of KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa has set up a reconciliation council comprising prominent members from the society to address the racial tensions between the Indian community of Phoenix and their black neighbours in three surrounding areas.

Premier Sihle Zikalala joined National Police Minister Bheki Cele in briefing the media on Tuesday morning about investigations into the deaths of more than 30 people in the Indian township of Phoenix during the unrest that plagued the area fortnight ago.

Zikalala said one of the key objectives of the Social Cohesion and Moral Regeneration Council (SCMRC) is to develop a comprehensive strategy to address feelings of marginalisation and exclusion based on race.

“We have also appointed social cohesion advocates who lead the campaign to ensure that there is mediation in areas that are affected by tension,” the premier said.

The tensions between the communities in the area arose after rampant looting and arson in the region, with communities taking up arms to protect their lives and property.

Protests which started after former president Jacob Zuma on July 7 started a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court rapidly devolved into mass violence, looting and arson across the province that left over 30 people dead in Phoenix, allegedly at the hands of vigilantes in the area.

The township of Phoenix was established in the white minority apartheid government era to forcibly resettle Indian residents from across the city, where their forebears had lived for generations. Zikalala believed that more programmes involving arts, culture and sports will help reconcile the communities in the province.

“Through arts, culture, sports and socio-economic development, we will bring together all communities of KwaZulu-Natal as we seek to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous province,” the premier said as he referred to a Peace Walk and soccer tournament that was hosted last week, promising to host many more similar events to bring together the communities of the affected areas.

Zikalala also lauded the Indian community that had rallied to support those left destitute after the violence.

“In the midst of that despair, we are however encouraged that in (the Indian areas of) Phoenix, Chatsworth, Verulam, Northdale (in Pietermaritzburg) and many other areas, good citizens are standing up against these barbaric acts,” Zikalala said.

“We have seen groups of Indian and African activists embarking on a campaign under the theme ‘All Lives Matter’. We have seen the ABC Forum, represented by Bishop Justin Naidoo, pooling their resources and donating a car to one of the (Black) victims whose car was burnt,” Zikalala said.

“The social solidarity demonstrated by the community of Phoenix in pursuit of peace and justice among people across all different races must be applauded. We need to build harmony and coexistence among the people, especially in the area of Phoenix and surroundings,” the premier added. Police Minister Bheki Cele extended his appreciation to a Peace Committee that had been set up by leaders in both communities in the wake of the violence to assist the police in its tasks.

“It is these determined women and men who raise their hands to be part of solutions in the face of adversity. They stand together against the divisions sowed among the people,” Cele said.