July unrest: 'I didn't tell them to go kill people', security company boss tells SAHRC panel

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Krishen Glen Naidoo gave evidence at the South African Human Rights Commission hearing into the July unrest
Krishen Glen Naidoo gave evidence at the South African Human Rights Commission hearing into the July unrest
Twitter/@SAHRCommission
  • A man who encouraged Phoenix residents to barricade roads in a video that went viral, said he thought it would be done legally.
  • Krishen Glen Naidoo told the SAHRC the barricades were not racially motivated.
  • Naidoo said his security company was victimised by Police Minister Bheki Cele. 

A man who encouraged Phoenix residents to barricade roads in the area in July in a video that went viral said he thought this would be done legally. He said it was not racially motivated.

On 12 July, Krishen Glen Naidoo, the founder of KZN VIP Security Services, recorded a video message which he later shared on Facebook. In the message, he encouraged Phoenix residents to barricade the area to prevent looting and violence.

On Thursday, Naidoo gave evidence at the South African Human Rights Commission hearing into the July unrest that left more than 340 people dead.

Naidoo said he posted the video because his company had received messages that Phoenix would be attacked, and businesses and houses looted.

READ | SA Human Rights Commission subpoenas state officials to testify at unrest hearing

He said residents could not get hold of the police.

"This was information from people who are credible – those people who work in our houses, and home assistants, and gardeners. We trust these people with our lives."

The former police officer said:

As a security company, I thought it was my responsibility to prevent people from being killed and the area we lived in to be looted. I told them to surround Phoenix and barricade it and protect themselves. I expected people to do so legally.

He said the community was taught to protect themselves when he was a Community Policing Forum (CPF) member.

"I expected to see community forum members barricading Phoenix. I expected to see people in reflective vests showing they are CPF members. I even asked law enforcement officers, or anyone who wanted to, to please help us. I told people to mobilise but unfortunately, what happened in Phoenix was not what I expected to see. Almost every single street had bricks, burning tyres, debris," he added.

He said because of the barricades, even his security company's work was disrupted. Their vehicles were damaged at roadblocks. But, he said he understood the community's reaction.

He said residents were "very, very scared".

READ | Pandor doubts July's unrest affected SA's standing in the world: 'It wasn't our first time'

"It was like a warzone. I saw the fear in the people, and I understood it. People needed to see the police."  

Asked whether he took responsibility for racial profiling and the killing of people, Naidoo said:

I did not tell them to go kill people. I was one of those people who took down barricades. People must be held accountable for what they did in their personal capacity.

He said the barricades were not racially motivated. "We saw black African people being the majority of people looting during the unrest. The information being given to Phoenix people was that this was what was going to happen to you next. If it had been white people, they would have been treated the same way. It was not about black African people but about criminality."

Hounded

Naidoo said after the unrest, he stepped down from the security company he started in 2005.

According to him, three members of the security company, including Naidoo himself, were charged with crimes related to the unrest.

"All those cases have subsequently been withdrawn. These are all minor cases. There was no real evidence that we committed these cases intentionally," he said.

He said the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority was investigating the company.

"We have a whole host of charges. It's sad. We are still being hounded. We feel that we are being victimised."

Naidoo also accused Police Minister Bheki Cele of victimisation. He said the minister said on television that KZN VIP should be investigated for the violence in Phoenix.

"Where he got that information from shocks me. I am an ex-policeman. I will take full responsibility for the actions of KZN VIP during the unrest. The minister's utterances were out of context. He should have never said that. He should have waited for the police to finish their investigations," Naidoo added.

READ | KZN top cop slammed for lack of co-operation during July unrest

He said this had damaged the company's relationship with the police. "Prior to the unrest, we had [more] than an excellent relationship with them. We have always been there to assist them in anything they require.

"We have never told them no. We've had an excellent relationship with the South African police, metro police, until the minister of police went on TV and demonised us.

"It's one of the reasons I had to step down from the organisation. We are being harassed presently by certain organs of the state. It seems like we have the plague. No one wants to communicate with us. He mentioned the security company by name."

Before the unrest, Naidoo said, his security company worked as force multipliers when the police went on raids.

"We give the police a sense of being secure."

Attacks

Naidoo said pictures of him were spread on Facebook.

"They said I was the man who was responsible for the killing of people in Phoenix. Fake news really hurt us," he added.

The company's Facebook page was suspended by the company because people were posting fake news.

He said he was receiving psychological help after the riots, adding:

I don't sleep at night. My wife has been complaining. She says I now talk in my sleep. This has been very traumatising for me. It has been traumatising for everyone in South Africa. We never expected something like this to happen.

The hearing continues. 


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