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Pietermaritzburg activist calls out criminality, racism during unrest hearings

  • A Pietermaritzburg community activist has spoken out on the unrest and how it affected the Raisethorpe community.
  • He laid blame on criminal elements within the security cluster in the area.
  • He said there had been arrests in the killing of 17-year-old Sibahle Nguse and implicated private security companies.

A community activist from Pietermaritzburg says that while there were racial tensions between Indian and black communities during the recent unrest, many incidents were a result of criminality from small groupings.

Roshan Jainath, 54, a prominent figure in Raisethorpe, said tensions between the Khan Road informal settlement and neighbouring Indian residents came from a select few in the latter group.

He was testifying on Monday at the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearings in Umhlanga, Durban, where the unrest and crimes related to the civil upheaval around it will be investigated.

Monday’s sitting focused heavily on the Khan Road Corner Informal Settlement, where 17-year-old Sibahle Nguse was allegedly shot and killed during the violence.

Jainath said social media played a significant role in how false narratives spread, but also said that the Indian community was rife with bullies who stifled those who did not give in to racist rhetoric.

“Social media is scary. In one community chat… people took exception to the informal settlement being there. One message said whoever burnt the camp didn’t do a good job. No one responded to that. The people who put these narratives forward are bullies.”

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He said the vast majority of people privately responded to him saying the community work he did was good.

“After that, I received at least 100 messages saying the work we do is good. There are people against what has been said.”

Jainath alleged there is a criminal element within the security cluster in the area, particularly at the Mountain Rise police station.

fire at Brookside Mall

Brookside Mall in Pietermaritzburg was set on fire and looted during the unrest.


“The Raisethorpe area is where Chota Motala was born, Ace Chetty, it is an area known for progressive people involved in the struggle against apartheid. The only organised formation in our community is the neighbourhood watches. And I believe there is a criminal element in the neighbourhood watches.”

He added that he was part of the Peace and Development Forum that was formed to foster good relations between communities.

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Following the unrest, Jainath said there were many Indian individuals and organisations that came together to raise over R700 000 to rebuild 45 of the 62 homes burnt during the unrest in Khan Road Corner Informal Settlement.

“The money was raised was from the church and Hindu communities. We also want to purchase smart toilets – you cannot have peace between two communities if the area takes on the look and smell of an informal settlement. People need dignity.”

Arrests and implicated individuals

Jainath said information he received indicated that RZS and Mi7 private security companies were present around the time of Nguse’s death.

“At that point there was indiscriminate shooting into the informal settlement and the young Sibahle was actually shot. The person who shot him was arrested. In fact, four have been arrested. This happened largely because there was an outcry as to how Mountain Rise conducted itself.

“It would seem Mountain Rise [is an] Indian police station, and [the] reservists are all Indian. The person who [was] shot and charged for the alleged murder is from RZS private security company,” he claimed.

The hearings continue on Tuesday. 

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