In the wee hours of the 12th of July, while most of South Africa’s citizens were still asleep, the residents of Kimberley, a city in the Northern Cape, were preparing to take to the streets to wage a fight against Sol Plaatje Municipality in the form of a city-wide shut down. Little did those preparing to march know that the fight would culminate in what it culminated to.
The community’s grievances included a sudden increase of R265 increase to their electricity tariffs on an already overly inflated electricity rate. This saw the citizens of Kimberley taking to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction.
Everything started off well. Different groups would meet at different checkpoints and make their way to Kemo, where most of the marching groups would converge and make it to the Civic Centre, where the municipal offices are. A march of this nature had already taken place the previous month so no one knew that this march would turn into what it turned into.
As the sun was rising, its ascendance was accompanied by smoke from the tires burned by the protesters to keep warm and also barricade main routes. It was, after all, a shut down. As the tires were burning and the smoke rising, some protester’s moral compasses also burned along with the tires. This is what would lead to disaster later on, because without morals, values and principles, everything is forgotten.
The protesters sang in unison, raised their fists to the sky and shouted slogans in classic South African protest type, totally oblivious to what would happen later on.
As the community sang, stomped, clapped and held up posters to express their dissatisfaction with the municipality as they made their way to the municipal offices, criminal elements gradually joined the march and started to lead from the back till they got to the front.
Once the criminal elements were at the front, they antagonized the police by throwing stones, water bottles and sticks at buildings in town. And that is when the police started to shoot. The shooting further antagonized the marchers and before one knew it, people were running all over for cover.
The criminal elements decided to use the opportunity to throw stones at shops and that is how all the looting started and how the city got under siege. The marching group split into many different groups that went back to the location, this would see the community involved in sporadic looting of shops owned by foreign businessmen and women.
While all of this was happening, members of my community – Phomolong – seeing that all these attacks on shops were being fueled by xenophobia, decided to get together amass bravery and courage. They decided to stick together to protect the shop of the foreign man that sells to our community.
Chomi, the store owner, was called: “Chomi, Chomi, come!”
And he was moved to a nearby house while the community guarded his shop. And just before dawn, the looting mob came but the courageous members of my community were waiting and said: “These ones are taking chances, this shop won’t be touched.”
And right there, my life was changed for the better. I saw the spirit of Ubuntu in action. I am now a proud product of my community. Chomi’s Store was never touched and when the looting stopped, Chomi stood tall in front of his shop with all those that helped him in times of need.