PRETORIA and LONDON -- At least 21 people were killed in a spate of shootings at bars across South Africa over the weekend, authorities said.
The deadliest incident occurred late Saturday night in Johannesburg's Soweto township in Gauteng province. A group of unknown men armed with rifles and pistols entered a local tavern in the Nomzamo informal settlement in the Orlando East area of Soweto and "started shooting randomly at the patrons who were sitting inside," according to the South African Police Service.
Twenty-three people were shot, of whom 12 were declared dead at the scene while the other 11 were rushed to a nearby hospital. Three more later died at the hospital, bringing the death toll from the incident to 16, according to police.
"One more victim was confirmed dead today at the hospital," a police spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. "The team of investigators working together with Crime Intelligence are on the ground to establish the motive and eventually arrest the perpetrators involved in this shooting."
South African Minister of Police Bheki Cele told reporters Monday that a manhunt has been launched for five suspects in connection with the Soweto shooting. Investigators have traced the suspects to Nongoma township in the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province, he said.
Another four people were killed earlier Saturday night in a separate shooting in Pietermaritzburg, the capital of KwaZulu-Natal province, about 45 miles northwest of Durban. Two gunmen opened fire on patrons in a tavern in the Sweetwaters area of Pietermaritzburg before fleeing in a small vehicle, according to police.
Twelve people were shot, of whom two were declared dead at the scene while two more died after being taken to a nearby hospital, police said.
"The team will be working around the clock to track down and bring to book those responsible for this shooting," the South African Police Service's commissioner for KwaZulu-Natal province, Lt. Gen. Nhlanhla Mkhwanaz, said in a statement Sunday.
Two other people were shot and killed late Friday night when a pair of gunmen opened fire on patrons at a tavern in Katlehong township in Gauteng province, about 15 miles southeast of Johannesburg, according to police.
While the motives behind the shootings were not immediately known, the ongoing investigations will likely point to "old-fashioned crime," according to Dr. Gerard Labuschagne, president of the African Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, a South African nonprofit that aims to educate professionals and the public about threat assessment and management.
"Whether it be a battle between the tavern owner and somebody else, or some of the patrons that might have been part of one group of people that the shooters didn't like -- it's probably the more likely option that's going to come out instead of one of these American style mass shootings," Labuschagne told ABC News in a recent interview.
Labuschagne, who previously served as the head of the South African Police Service's specialized Investigative Psychology Section for 14 years, noted that the gun laws in South Africa are extremely tight and the biggest challenge is policing.
"It's not the Firearms Control Act that has any influence on whether or not we have gun violence or not, it's more active policing. That is the key to reducing gun violence in South Africa," he said. "We've got very strict laws already that I think are very good and, compared to other parts of the world, are quite comprehensive."
The bar shootings came two weeks after 21 teenagers were found dead at a popular tavern in Scenery Park, a suburb on the edge of the coastal city of East London in Eastern Cape province. The causes of those deaths remain under investigation, but the victims were not shot nor crushed in a stampede, according to police.