Bloodbath ends party

2012-08-06 00:00

A JOYOUS family celebration in northern KwaZulu-Natal turned into a bloodbath when a group armed with rifles and handguns ambushed the party and left five people dead.

Another 17 were injured in the attack, which happened close to Sundumbili near Mandeni on Saturday evening, and were taken to various hospitals.

Locals said the shooting stemmed from a running feud between two clans.

One of the families was conducting umemulo, a traditional ceremony celebrating coming of age for two women.

Prince Nkosinathi Zulu, a member of the traditional leadership in the area, described the event as one of the biggest tragedies they had experienced.

“They came and they ruined someone’s event, they turned a joyous occasion into a tearful one,” he said.

Sundumbili, about three hours north of Durban, is described as very rural. Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said: “It’s the kind of place where you stand on one mountain and look across and see another.”

The shooting took place near a compound high in the hills. The site can only be reached on foot, about a 45-minute walk from the nearest road.

The remoteness meant the bodies had to be airlifted to the road for transportation to the morgue. Some of the wounded had no choice but to walk out.

Mlungisi Dube, spokesperson for the Health Department in the uThungulu District, said they would have more details about the injured today.

Traditional leaders in the area said they believed the massacre was a result of tension between two warring clans.

The leader of the headmen in the area, Nhlanhlakayifani Shandu, said: “Between these two families there has been a lot of bad blood.”

The shooting began at 4.30 pm as the sun was setting.

One burst of gunfire followed another — on and on, bullets from a clutch of rifles and handguns sprayed out in all directions.

Running for cover, those fleeing the bullets scattered over bushy terrain, some heading for the river down below, others hiding behind whatever growth they could find.

When the guns finally stopped firing, five men lay dead and another 17 were wounded. They were aged 19 to 35.

Night had fallen by the time police arrived. They began to search for victims and found some bodies in bushes, the foliage having proved scant cover.

“This was not a faction fight between two regions; these were people from exactly the same area. This was brother against brother,” said Zulu.

Shandu called on Community Safety MEC Willies Mchunu to take swift action. “The people here are now terrified; they are hiding.”

He said that if left unresolved, the friction could inflame the whole area.

“We call on the government to put strong law enforcement in this area, because if that does not happen, this incident has the potential to consume the whole area, with all the people joining in this fight.”

Mchunu said he was due to visit the area today and expressed regret that past efforts to calm historical tensions seemed to be unravelling.

“We thought that this matter was being resolved. We collected many guns from the area.”

He said he was concerned about any new flare-up. “This creates a never-ending war with revenge attacks.

“That is why it is very important that we meet all the leaders so that a lasting solution can be found.”

Public order police are patrolling the area and Naicker said a task team was already working on the case.

No arrests have been made.

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