Two weeks after South Africa was gripped by a frenzy of looting and arson – the worst scenes of violence since the advent of democracy in 1994 – the makeshift road blocks and mounds of rubbish in the port city of Durban have been cleared away.
But soldiers continue to patrol tense neighbourhoods devastated by a week of anarchy that left more than 300 people dead.
“Everything is gone. I have no insurance. I’m worried about the future of South Africa. I’m worried about the future of my kids,” said entrepreneur Dawn Shabalala, whose four small shops were looted – down to the last water pipe and electrical fitting.
Emerging from a crisis meeting with national and provincial leaders, the premier of KwaZulu-Natal province, Sihle Zikalala, described the situation as “a catastrophe.”
Dr. Pixley Ka Seme street is strewn with dirt and filth caused after five days of looting in Durban on July 14, 2021 as several shops, businesses and infrastructure are damaged in the city, following five nights of continued violence and looting sparked by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma
Mr Zikalala had earlier faced criticism for suggesting that in order to calm the situation, the authorities should release former President Jacob Zuma from prison.
It was Zuma’s arrest, for contempt of court, which sparked the unrest, leading to claims that his allies were seeking to overthrow South Africa’s young democracy.
But later Mr Zikalala was toeing the official government line, acknowledging that the violence in his province and in the economic heartland of Gauteng “started as a mobilisation around the former president, but then became something uncontrollable”.
“It was deliberately started and orchestrated… and had an element of undermining the state – an insurrection,” Mr Zikalala added.
Although “many, many people are very unhappy about [Zuma’s] incarceration,” Mr Zikalala said, “anyone involved in instigating or planning or supporting disruption must be arrested and prosecuted”.
After protests and looting tear through South Africa, the nation wonders: What now?
“Things can be recovered … but there is an impact in the community,” said Richard Ncube, 40, a former police officer.
Windows were smashed, the parking lot was filled with debris, and “Free Zuma” was spray-painted on the facade of The Ridge, a once-pristine center that sits on Shallcross Road, a major thoroughfare in Durban, a city of 600,000 people on the eastern coast of South Africa.
“Things can be recovered … but there is an impact in the community,” said Richard Ncube, 40, a former police officer whose cellphone repair stand looking out at The Ridge was also burgled in violence that convulsed the country in the wake of former President Jacob Zuma’s detention on charges of contempt of court last this month during his separate corruption trial.
“People who are staying here, buy here,” he said. “Now it’s pretty difficult for them. Where are they going to get food?”
People across South Africa are surveying the damage caused by the politically triggered riots. The city of Durban has estimated over $1 billion in damages and lost goods, which, along with 129,000 jobs at risk, could amount to a $1.4 billion hit to the port city’s gross domestic product.
Image: Richard Ncube, left, and Dawood Phillip had devices and parts stolen from their cellphone repair shop during widespread unrest in Durban, South Africa last week.
South Africa’s struggle to end whites-only rule and the brutal apartheid system without plunging into civil war made it an international byword for a victorious fight for democracy. Despite gains made in the last two decades, and even though it runs Africa’s third-largest economy now, millions of South Africans are still struggling, particularly during worsening economic conditions stoked by the coronavirus pandemic.
Violence like what happened last month shows that South Africa must reduce historic levels of inequality and crack down on official corruption, which experts say fueled the unrest. If it doesn’t, such flashpoints could become more common, experts and residents fear.
“Our children are going to grow up knowing that looting is not a crime,” Ncube said. “In 10 years to come, we’ll be doing this every year.”
h/t Digital mix guy