Several people were also injured, according to local authorities.
The incident took place shortly after midnight when a group of men armed with rifles and 9mm pistols broke into a bar in the informal settlement of Nomzamo near Johannesburg and began “indiscriminately” shooting at patrons, Gauteng police said in a statement.
Police said 23 people were shot at the establishment, 12 died on the spot, and 11 were taken to a nearby hospital with injuries. At the hospital, at least two more people were pronounced dead.
The suspects are still on the run, according to police, who called on witnesses to testify.
“This is a bad scene. When you see bodies [that] piled up, you can see that each of these people [was] is trying to get out of the tavern,” said Gauteng Police Commissioner Elias Mavela in an interview with the South African news channel ENCA.
Mavela said that the police have yet to find out the details about the motives and reasons for the attack on people in the tavern.
“I have no doubt that with the cooperation of the local community, we will be able to solve this case,” he added.
“Every violent death is unacceptable”
Police said Sunday that four more people were killed in a separate shooting incident at a bar in Sweetwaters in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday night.
KwaZulu-Natal provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mhwanazi said in a statement that at least 12 people were shot dead after two men entered the tavern and “randomly opened fire.”
As with the Soweto shooting, police said the suspects were still at large and a manhunt was underway.
Following the violence, the South African National Civic Organization in Gauteng urged the government to tighten gun regulations in the country, according to the SABC.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, meanwhile, offered his condolences to the families of those killed in both attacks, his office said in a statement Sunday.
“As a nation, we cannot allow violent criminals to terrorize us in this way, no matter where such incidents may occur,” Ramaphosa said. economic conditions in communities, reduce violent crime, and eradicate illicit firearms.”
“Every violent death is unacceptable and worrying, and the killing on a scale that we have seen in Soweto, Pietermaritzburg and earlier in Khayelitsha should push us into a collective effort to build communities and make South Africa an unsafe place for criminals,” he said.
Reporting provided by Hira Humayan of CNN.