DURBAN: Community policing forums (CPFs) and business against crime groups, in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, say their members and residents have started to band together, to try to curb further looting and damage to property in their areas.
Isipingo CPF chair Aiden David said the situation was terrible, as the size of the mobs had increased.
“Mobs are becoming much bigger now, they have vans to load whatever they are stealing,” he said.
David said both the SAPS and private security companies were outnumbered.
“We are like sitting ducks. The communities are now starting to group themselves together to start protecting their homes, because it's just a matter of time before these looters start interfering with the private homes,” he said.
He said Isipingo residents were concerned and “worried about whether they are going to be able to recover from this carnage”.
Pravin Gounder, who is the chair of the Reservoir Hills policing sub forum, said there was a total onslaught on the mall in the area.
“The entire mall has been looted. Mall looting only ended this morning, at about 6am, and there is really nothing left in our mall, even our ATMs have been taken away, off the wall,” he said.
Gounder said residents did not know what to expect next.
“We don't know what to expect next – that’s the problem. And with all that’s going on on social media, we see what’s going on in other areas and its quite a shocking state of affairs. People are praying and hoping that things don't turn ugly here in our area,” he said.
He said all the stores, including the garages, were closed on Monday.
“Even in surrounding areas, everything has been closed in other centres. To get essentials is quite a challenge, such as milk and bread,” said Gounder.
He said an advisory was sent to all residents that stores were closed, and that it would be best to stay indoors and not leave the area.
“So far most of the residents have been adhering to that ...U p until this point, there have been no threats to any of the residents in the area,” he said.
Chairman of the Phoenix CPF Umesh Singh said the area was like a war zone.
He said the CPF, security companies, and members of the community, had created a group to share ideas on how they could best solve this issue.
“Unfortunately, today wasn't too much of a success. We can say that Phoenix is under siege. Basically every entrance, every exit barricaded, and the guys are burning tyres and so on. Lots of people, including myself, can't even get home now because the roads are blocked,” he said.
Singh said the looting in Phoenix was ongoing since Sunday night, where mainly businesses were targeted.
However, he said in some areas, such Brookdale, there was looting and some homes were robbed.
He said the Phoenix community had taken up arms to protect their properties.
“We've got members from the community standing around in different areas trying to prevent any further loss to property. Arming themselves with whatever they can get, whether its bush knives, knobkerries or firearms, you name it,” said Singh.
He said the community have seen incidents like these happen too often and they were tired of this behaviour.
“I'm glad in a way, that the community has taken this step. They are also acting as force multipliers, together with security and the police. Hopefully some form of settlement is reached soon, otherwise it will become very ugly,” said Singh.
Essop Dawood, spokesperson for the Community on Patrol (COP), in Pietermaritzburg, said they were forced to stop a group from emptying a supermarket in Berg Street.
He said Café Tea Room, in Loop Street, in the CBD, was burnt down.
Kantha Naidoo from Business Fighting Crime in Pietermaritzburg said the situation in Pietermaritzburg is very bad and totally out of control.
“Unfortunately we can only try as much as we can by appealing to companies to protect their stuff but there is only so much they can do,”she said.
Naidoo said protesters were starting fires everywhere to distract people while they loot.
“We are standing here trying to figure out how to put out the fires so that the houses dont get burnt and we cant go into town,” she said.
She said the company that she works for owns property at Edendale Mall as well as a Warehouse in Eastwood which was destroyed.
Naidoo said the community unfortunately have to do what is necessary to protect their assets.
“The public are so anxious, frustrated and angry that this could have happened and allowed to happen because it;s not like we were not warned,” she said.
She said by the time the a few soldiers arrived it had been too late, stores were already damaged.
“In PMB looking at about 30 or more stores damage and its going to be so hard for us to recover,” she said.
Mansoor Akoo, chairman of the Sydenham community policing forum, said the situation in the area was under control.
“Sydenham its very calm at the moment but we still have looters carrying stuff and going home with them, passing us going to the informal settlements,” he said.