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News > South Africa

South Africa: Three Bar Shootings Leave 21 Dead, Dozens Injured

  • At least 21 people were killed over the weekend as gunmen opened fire on three taverns in South Africa, in what the police described as

    At least 21 people were killed over the weekend as gunmen opened fire on three taverns in South Africa, in what the police described as "random" shootings. | Photo: Twitter @nytimes

Published 11 July 2022

The three separate attacks, hundreds of miles apart, have brought into sharp focus South Africa’s high rate of crime and gun violence.

A string of mass shootings over the weekend at different taverns in South Africa have left 21 people killed and several dozens with critical injuries, according to local police, which have described the shootings as "random".


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In Soweto, Johannesburg, early Sunday a group of men armed with rifles and automatic handguns stormed a busy tavern in the Nomzamo shantytown and opened fire about half an hour after midnight, according to Col. Dimakatso Sello, a spokeswoman for the police. The shooters killed 12 people on the spot and injured 23. Three more people later died at a hospital, the police said. 

A few hours earlier, in Pietermaritzburg, a city about 300 miles southeast of Johannesburg in KwaZulu-Natal Province, a group of gunmen killed at least four people and injured another eight in a shooting in a tavern in Sweetwaters, an area on the outskirts of the city, the police said.

There was no evidence that the two attacks were linked, said Lt.-Col. Nqobile Gwala, a spokeswoman for the police. In both cases the shooters fled the scenes and no arrests were made.

In a third separate shooting, gunmen killed two people and injured four on Friday night in the Katlehong township, roughly 25 miles east of Soweto. The police said that four men entered the bar, at least one armed with a pistol, and started shooting randomly.

The police have not said whether the two attacks in the Johannesburg area were connected, but they said they had launched a manhunt for the gunmen.

South Africa’s murder rate has surged about 66% within the past year, with authorities recording 5,760 murders in 2021, according to police data. This translates to 9.5 murders per 100,000 people.

Campaign group Gun Free South Africa estimates there are around 3 million guns registered in the country. The estimate excludes illegally obtained firearms and those in circulation on the black market.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared in a statement that the nation “cannot allow violent criminals to terrorize us in this way.” “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, commenting on the Soweto and Pietermaritzburg shootings.

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