The week that broke South Africa – Violence, Anger and Despair

No one expected that a week after former president Jacob Zuma was taken away to serve a 15-month sentence for failing to adhere to a court order to appear before the Zondo Commission, there would be parts of the south coast in KwaZulu-Natal where residents would have to queue for hours to get their hands on the little food left in unlooted stores.

Zuma’s arrest last Wednesday was the spark that set off unrest across KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, fuelled by anger over poverty and unemployment, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the weekend, small pockets of violence broke out, with trucks burnt at Mooi Plaza and protest action in Jeppestown and Hillbrow in Johannesburg. By Monday, TV news screens were filled with images of full-scale looting under way in Durban and other parts of KwaZulu-Natal. The looting rapidly spread to Alexandra, Soweto, Vosloorus, Daveyton and Tshwane in Gauteng. By Monday afternoon, it was announced that the SANDF would be deployed to assist an overwhelmed police force. By Thursday, it was announced that 117 people had died.

While the violence may have taken the country’s citizens by surprise, it later became clear the looting was part of a “well-orchestrated economic sabotage”. News24 reported that the government was investigating whether former uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) operatives, some of whom worked in the security cluster, were the main instigators of the chaos the country was subjected to this week. Former top government spy Thulani Dlomo has also been implicated. Other suspected instigators are under investigation and the DA has laid charges against Zuma’s two children, Duduzane Zuma and Duduzile Sambudla-Zuma, as well as EFF leader Julius Malema. Analysts started to question whether we were in the throes of an attempted coup.

The crisis has put the country, already struggling economically under the strain of a pandemic, even further on the backfoot.

Thousands of businesses are out of commission, with an estimated R16 billion worth of stock stolen in KwaZulu-Natal alone. It’s likely to compound the country’s already dire unemployment figure, and it has led to food security issues and a rise in racial issues and vigilantism.

Stay safe, 

Vanessa Banton News24 Opinions editor

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