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ConflictsSouth Africa

19 killed in South Africa bar shootings

July 10, 2022

Gunmen opened fire in two bars in what appeared to be random shootings, police said. President Cyril Ramaphosa called for improving social and economic conditions to stem gun violence.

A team of from the forensic pathology service carry on a stretcher a victim's body towards their vehicle at a crime scene in Soweto, South Africa, on July 10, 2022.
A group of men opened fire at the Soweto township bar, shooting scoresImage: Ihsaan Haffejee/AFP/Getty Images

A shooting attack targeted a bar in South Africa's Soweto township, west of Johannesburg, late on Saturday, killing 15 people and critically injuring others.

It came just hours after four people were killed and eight were injured when two men fired at customers in a bar in the eastern city of Pietermaritzburg, in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

'Random' shootings

In Soweto, Police reports indicate that a group of men arrived in a minibus taxi and started firing at the bar, prompting those inside to attempt to flee.

A police commissioner Elias Mawela told the AP news agency that the police believed it was a group who attacked the premise from the number of cartridges found on the scene.

"You can see that a high caliber firearm was used and it was shooting randomly. You can see that every one of those people was struggling to get out of the tavern," Mawela told AP.

19 killed in South Africa bar shootings

Police said in a press release that 23 people were shot in Soweto. They urged members of the public to come forward with any information on "unknown suspects following an apparent random shooting incident." 

Those killed in the Pietermaritzburg shooting were aged between 30 and 45, according to police spokeswoman Nqobile Gwala.   

Two men drove up a bar, went inside and "fired random shots at the patrons" before fleeing, Gwala said.

"Every week we get news of people that have just been shot at randomly," said local Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebola.

Ramaphosa denounces 'unacceptable and worrying' violence

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the two bar shootings.

"As a nation, we cannot allow violent criminals to terrorize us in this way, regardless of where such incidents may occur," Ramaphosa said in a statement.

"As government, citizens and structures of civil society we must all work together even more closely to improve social and economic conditions in communities, reduce violent crime and stamp out the illicit circulation of firearms," he said.

Gun crime in South Africa 

Gun crime in South Africa is relatively common by international standards, with the country suffering a similar number of fatalities each year as a share of its population as the US does.

Furthermore, in South Africa's case, a far higher proportion of these deaths are murdered and a much smaller proportion are suicide than in the US.

The country's overall homicide rate is also among the highest in the world, at 33 people per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020, according to the World Bank.

Saturday's shooting comes shortly after the mysterious death of 21 young people at a township bar in the coastal South African town of East London.

The cause behind their deaths, which prompted much mourning and uproar, remains unknown. Investigators ruled out a shooting or a stampede as the cause.

South Africans gather to mourn teen deaths

rmt/fb (AFP, AP)