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SAHRC told of bodies lying in PMB 'war zone' during July unrest

18 November 2021

Thursday’s witness was Melanie Veness, who is the CEO of the Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business.
She has been describing what lay around her as she walked through Barnsley Road in Pietermaritzburg to assess the damage caused to businesses following looting and violence in July.

"The road looked like some dreadful bomb had gone off. It was a war zone. There was broken stuff and machinery and everything lying all over the road - all the way down and in front of the road is Msunduzi River.

"It was along the side of the road, on the pavement and down the bank towards the river where there were people that were lying dead and it was absolutely soul-destroying to stand there and see people just left discarded like rubbish on the side of the road."
She believes the destruction was planned.

"You could see how orchestrated it was, how people that went ahead went and disabled the water sprinkling systems. Pulled the lining out of the ceilings.
"They broke through the ceiling so they could pull that out, brought petrol with them, emptied machines of fuel to try and set the machines on fire."  
Veness said police were nowhere to be found as crowds went on the rampage.
She told the commission that she spoke to some officers later about why they hadn't intervened.

"We have been directly told by some of the police personnel that they were told to stand down, that they weren't allow to respond... [by] their leadership.
"They haven't been specific, they were instructed. That was all they were prepared to tell us, they were instructed to stand down.
"We were told at the time there wasn't tear gas. There was tear gas, there was plenty of. So it appears instructions from somewhere that everybody obeyed, that they didn't respond."

Source: East Coast Radio

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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