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KZN unrest: I woke up to explosions today. We are under siege and need more troops

Soldiers patrol the Durban CBD on Tuesday after the city was looted. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Soldiers patrol the Durban CBD on Tuesday after the city was looted. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jul 14, 2021


We woke to explosions again this morning.

We went to bed under the crack of gunfire in the distance.

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This has become our lived experience in Durban after a crush of mass looting and rioting laid siege to our beautiful city in the days after former president Jacob Zuma was imprisoned for contempt of court.

As the explosions pierced what ordinarily would have been the quiet of dawn, I turned on Zello - a walkie-talkie like app - to hear what the explosions may be about.

Word was that the explosions were coming from the Massmart warehouse that was looted the previous day but for some sick reason had been set alight during the night.

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The images coming through on social media are heartbreaking. The warehouse and industrial zones in the Riverhorse Valley area on Nandi Drive resemble an apocalypse.

Looted goods and clothes that could not be carried away are strewn on the road. There are abandoned fridges and stoves.

Burnt out wrecks of cars bear silent testimony to the anarchy that has befallen.

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There are aerial images of mobs of looters at the Makro store in Springfield Park taking what they want with gay abandon.

Looters cart away goods stolen from the Massmart warehouse in Nandi Drive.Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Not a policeman or soldier in sight.

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They even ripped the solar panels that power that store off its roofs.

It was being stripped bare in plain sight and not a single attempt was made to stop them.

I have written stories for IOL on the chaos and bedlam engulfing our city but words do no justice to the true extent of the damage being inflicted on businesses and property.

On Monday night when President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed South Africans following a day of rampant looting and declared that the army was being mobilised to quell the violence, there was a bit of optimism that finally help was on its way and the insurrection - no matter how weak and empty of detail his speech was - would be crushed.

But two days later, the rampant looting continues.

Ordinary citizens who have watched how ineffective our police have been to quell the looting have been forced to set up barricades in their neighbourhoods to defend their properties and businesses from looters, many of whom are armed and driving around in bakkies and taxis scouting for new spots to attack.

Two days later and many have not seen a soldier.

As I write this, a relative who lives in a suburb south of Durban has been on his Zello channel all morning listening to how citizens are setting up barricades to prevent mobs from invading the shopping centres on the Bluff and in the south that had not been looted.

“Where is the army,” he asked.

“Why has a state of emergency not been called?”

The defence minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Tuesday that the situation at present did not warrant the country being moved to a state of emergency.

Tell that to the people who have been protecting their communities from the armed mobs. Tell that to the businesses who have seen their hard work go up in flames.

Looters filled bakkies with stolen goods from the Massmart warehouse without a single policeman in sight.Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Tell that to the people, who, because of these businesses being looted and razed to the ground will join the ranks of the unemployed.

Tell that to the investors such as Walmart - the American owners of Makro and Game - who have seen stock and property worth hundreds of millions of rands looted and burnt.

For us, the ordinary citizens who are having to line up for food and fuel, we are in a state of emergency.

For us, the ordinary citizens, who are manning community barricades in the face of armed looters, we are in a state of emergency.

For us, the ordinary citizens, who can’t buy bread, cant buy baby formula, nappies and medicine, we are in a state of emergency.

For us, the ordinary citizens, who are on the Zello App listening helplessly to how the looters are running rampant at our local supermarkets, pharmacies and fuel stations in the midst of zero police or army presence, we are in a state of emergency.

During South Africa’s first lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Ramaphosa mobilised some 70 000 odd SANDF troops to enforce lockdown. In the midst of unabated civil unrest that has crippled the economy of KZN and Gauteng only 2 500 troops have reportedly been deployed.

What utter madness.

If anything, the riots of the past few days have crystallised how far removed our leaders are from ordinary citizens.

If they only knew the terror we are living under or ventured out of their tax-payer funded homes that are protected 24 hours a day by police, they will know that KwaZulu-Natal is burning and civil war is on our doorstep.

We, the ordinary citizens, need more than 2 500 soldiers to restore peace and stability.

Will it be too late by the time our leaders realise this?