I learned about the looting and violent destruction of property when my cousin posted a video of Brookside Mall engulfed in flames. Not long after this, I started getting news alerts about the unrest in my home country.
In the news, it is reported that it was the arrest of Jacob Zuma that gave way to the violence we witnessed. Even at face value, this current outbreak doesn’t seem to be rooted in the support of Msholozi. If it was, there would be ANC fanatics picketing outside some high court. Didn’t they do that in 2009 when they tried to get him acquitted of the rape charge?
To look at this story from just the angle of looting is an unfair exercise, which will further dehumanise the marginalized people of South Africa.
For the sole purpose of looking at this story from a holistic point of view, I’ve divided my thoughts as follows:
We are a failed state
As South Africans, we are famous for our penchant for expressing our grievances through protests. We burn garbage bins, tear down statues of oppressors and destroy the occasional bus, but rioting of this magnitude is a clear indication that the government has failed.
Our morally inept leaders are more concerned with lining their pockets. The poor only exist as pawns. This is the reason we did not see any notable political figures at the forefront of this debacle. Even so, I will bet you, my last Randela there is a potbellied, Hennessey-guzzling, Gucci-clad individual pulling the strings behind the scenes.
The poor are finally eating the rich?
While watching the videos and reading the news, something at the back of my mind kept saying, the poor are finally eating the rich. This thought became more prominent when I watched a video clip on BBC. A dishevelled man admitted that he didn’t know what was going on, but when he saw people rushing into malls, supermarkets, fruit stands, he decided to follow suit. “I am unemployed. I am hungry, I saw this opportunity and took it,” he reasoned.
We can argue that unemployment should not lead one to commit a crime, that’s us, we’re comfortable, keyboard warriors, we condemn from a place of comfort, over a plate of croissants, bacon and eggs.
We seem to forget that crime is the direct result of poverty. Destitution strips you of your humanity. Indlala inamanyala, so goes an old age Xhosa proverb. Poverty causes one to act in abominable ways. As Eusebius McKaiser states, inequality and violence are correlated. Eliminate one, and the other ceases to exist.
A loophole for thugs
In another clip, a very self-assured Bheki Cele is heard saying, “Whoever has a new flat-screen TV, refrigerator or washing machine, better have a receipt for it.” Honestly, I doubt he stopped to think that most of the people looting are people who genuinely grabbed whatever is of value so they can later trade it to put food on the table. If he follows up with this “promise”, where are they going to go? To the mentions in Sandton? Of course not! They’re going straight to Alex and Diepsloot. What does that tell you? It’s mostly the people in need that are looting.
Of course, it would be very myopic of me to look at this from one side. Some people had no business looting. Take for instance the CEO of an international wealth company. This fat cat was caught red-handed loading electrical appliances into his Jeep Wrangler. What reasons did he have for looting? Greed.
People such as him are the scum of humanity. They’re the reason we will never prosper as a country. Sadly, we’re also led by people who are just like him, who lack morals and self-control.
Honest people are affected
When things like this happen, it is the honest people who are affected. Take for instance the small business owners whose businesses were burned down to the ground, the thousands of people who have lost their jobs.
Why loot from street vendors and spaza shops?
This is the part that completely failed to make sense to me. Why would you loot a spaza in your neighbourhood? Except for the fact that you have a vendetta against your neighbour or that you’re just a thug that enjoys causing misery?
This is just the tip of the iceberg
What we are seeing right now, is just the tip of the iceberg. If our leaders don’t shape up, this will become a common occurrence. You honestly need to look at the backgrounds of the looters to understand just how dire things are in our country.
We’re fast headed to where Zimbabwe is.