Church Leaders in South Africa Bemoan “disrespect for human life” after Taverns Shootings

Logo of the South African Council of Churches (SACC). Credit: South African Council of Churches (SACC)

Church leaders in South Africa have bemoaned what they call “wanton disrespect for life” following the July 9 shootings at two taverns in South African towns some 500 kms apart that reportedly left at least 19 people killed and many more injured.

The double “apparently random shootings” at Soweto and Pietermaritzburg townships that happened “within hours of each other” involved multiple attackers who were armed with rifles and pistols, Reuters reported July 10.

“Attackers armed with rifles and pistols opened fire in the Orlando East bar in the township of Soweto in the early hours of Sunday, killing 15 people and wounding nine,” Reuters has quoted the police commissioner for Gauteng Province that covers Soweto township.

In a July 10 statement shared with ACI Africa, members of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) who include representatives of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) extend condolences to the bereaved families.

“It is another sad and alarming day for us, where the wanton disrespect for life would allow for anyone to enter a tavern and shoot randomly at people, with no care for whether they live or die,” SACC members say.


In their statement signed by SACC Acting General Secretary, Rev. Mzwandile Molo of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the church leaders extend their “deepest condolences and sympathies to the families who have lost loved ones and extend comfort to the communities at a time where there may be confusion and much anger.”

SACC members call on affected community members to remain calm and collaborate with the South African Police Service (SAPS), channeling “efforts to support the SAPS in their investigations by sharing any information about suspicious behavior that would lead to the prosecution of the perpetrators.”

According to a July 11 South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) report, at least 15 people have died after a shooting at a tavern in Orlando, Soweto. 

South African authorities say “23 people were shot, 12 of whom were declared dead on the scene, while 11 were rushed to a nearby hospital. Two more were later declared dead at the hospital.”

In a separate incident some 500 kms away, four people were reportedly killed and eight wounded during a shootout at a tavern in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal; two more people were shot and killed in yet another incident at a tavern in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni.

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South African Police Commissioner, Bheki Cele, has been quoted as promising the deployment Police’s Tactical Response Team (TRT - Amabherethe) to assist local members of the country’s Police Service in a bid to identify the perpetrators of the July 10 attacks.

In their statement, SACC members have called for stricter alcohol regulations, saying, “As a country, the issue of the abuse of alcohol remains a major concern at all levels of society, and interventions around the sale of alcohol to minors, and the safety of patrons at such venues requires addressing.”

The church leaders however say that “these acts of violence taking place in taverns have less to do with the abuse of alcohol and more to do with the cheapening of life.”

They call upon church members to “extend their support to these families and in these communities through the ministry of prayer, and ministry of presence; while simultaneously engaging with various regulatory entities servicing taverns and nightclubs, around the issues of security and safety of their patrons, as incidents of violence and death should not become commonplace in our communities.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with ACI Africa, the SACBC Secretary General said, “The recent Tavern shootings over the past weekend highlight for us the real suffering that many people are experiencing in our country today.”


“The suffering brings a great deal of sadness to the heart and to the hearts of all people of goodwill,” Fr. Hugh O’Connor said during the Monday, July 11 interview.

The shootings, Fr. O’Connor said, “represent part of the ever-increasing cycle of violence that we are finding in our country, the devaluing of human life, where people gathered to recreate, become collateral damage in political, social, economic, or criminal gains.”

The South African Priest further called on the government and the state security “to do all they can to catch the perpetrators of these crimes, not just of these three incidents and three shootings of this weekend, but to catch the perpetrators of all violence and crime in our country, so that ordinary citizens may live their lives in peace.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.