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July civil unrest: call for anti-poverty programmes

Sham Maharaj, of the Ubuntu Peace Forum, testified last week at the SA Human Rights Commission inquiry into the July civil unrest. I Screengrab.

Sham Maharaj, of the Ubuntu Peace Forum, testified last week at the SA Human Rights Commission inquiry into the July civil unrest. I Screengrab.

Published Nov 22, 2021

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DURBAN - THE July 2021 civil unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal was an indication that leaders across the political divide need to work together to roll-out anti-poverty programmes and promote social cohesion.

Deputy President David Mabuza said this when addressing the National Council of Provinces on Thursday last week.

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Mabuza said the extent of poverty and inequality in South Africa, especially in the affected provinces, suggested the government must work harder across the political divide to deepen anti-poverty programmes in order to achieve inclusive growth.

The SAHRC hearings into the July civil unrest continue this week.

On Friday, Police Minister Bheki Cele said the July civil unrest claimed the lives of 342 people in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

“Public sentiment on the possibility of a better South Africa should be constantly kept alive through concrete improvement in their (citizens’) socio-economic condition. Doing so is in our collective interest,” he said.

Mabuza said the affected provinces were starting to normalise and businesses and logistics networks were returning to full operation.

He said people’s security and livelihoods had been restored. Mabuza said a panel of experts would conduct an assessment of the country’s ability to respond to such incidents in the future.

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“The unrest is a stark reminder that the project of building and consolidating a democratic society that is inclusive and reflective of the aspirations contained in our Constitution is far from being over,” he said.

Mabuza commended the support of all social partners in finding practical solutions to problems on the ground, and who had supported efforts to restore calm in the various affected areas during and after unrest period.

“For as long as the poor feel that the system is leaving them behind and is benefiting only a few, we run a societal risk of allowing a section of society to be easily persuaded into opting out of democratic processes,” he said.

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Phoenix Ubuntu Forum convenor Sham Maharaj submitted a six-page report to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), stating that communities in KZN and elsewhere had been traumatised by the events of July 2021.

Maharaj said the forum had been busy over the past three months with various initiatives in response to the crisis, such as building peace between neighbouring communities, food relief for all the affected communities, counselling in schools and promoting social cohesion in Phoenix’s neighbouring communities.

Maharaj called on national, provincial and local governments to urgently address the socio-economic conditions which were depriving communities of a decent life, such as lack of proper housing, water and electricity, food, education, jobs, transport and security.

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Maharaj said after the looting and burning of many local shops, communities in Phoenix, KwaMashu, Inanda and Amaoti found it difficult to obtain basic food items

“A food security committee was set up to talk to donors in the hope of donations of food to be distributed to the needy. Hampers and food parcels were delivered to the needy,” he said.

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