Arrests, crowded supermarkets and escorted food trucks as KZN North Coast mops up
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KWAZULU-NATAL's north coast continues to pick up the pieces and mop up after looting and vandalism left most towns and townships crippled and having to endure crowded supermarkets as retailers slowly open up.
On a round trip that included stopovers in eMpangeni, Nseleni township, Eshowe and Gingindlovu, the devastation and the consequences were clearly visible.
This comes as police have started staging roadblocks, stopping cars to prevent looted goods from being moved out of Durban. On Saturday a joint roadblock of SAPS, Road Traffic Infringement and Durban metro police was staged at oThongathi toll gate, and several people were detained. A police officer on the scene said this was part of their effort to get back looted goods.
“Now it’s our turn to recover the goods. As we speak, our van is full of suspects,” said the officer, who is not authorised to speak to the media.
In Mpangeni alone, although some malls and businesses were saved when Community Policing Forums stood up and shielded them, there was visible hardship. Motorists have to queue for hours to get fuel. Motorists spent long hours at Engen Ultra City along the N2 near Empangeni and Richards Bay waiting to fill up.
At noon a woman motorist from Mtunzini said she had been waiting since 9am to get petrol.
“I have been here since 9am waiting for fuel. We were told that the garage is without fuel, and it is still waiting for a tanker to fill up and we don’t know when that tanker will come. Sadly, we have to wait because we have nowhere to go,” the motorist said.
In the long queue, some of the cars had registration plates that showed that they came from Mtubatuba, Mandeni and Gingindlovu.
The pinch of the looting was also felt in the nearby township of Nseleni, where its only mall was looted and torched. About 14 major retailers within the township mall were burnt down. On the scene, 30 workers from Boxer supermarket were mopping with the hope of getting the business running again. However, the assistant manager, Mbali Mkhize said they were not sure when they would start operating again, saying the go-ahead would come from their head office in Durban.
“We are mopping up as much as we can, but we have been told by the insurance company not to tamper with the interior part of the shop. As you can see, the kids are helping by bringing back the trolleys,” Mkhize said.
The retailer had a total staff of 107, both permanent and casual staff. Some of the staff members found mopping up were also moving around the township collecting trolleys, which were likely used by looters when the mall was torched on Monday morning.
The looting has not only caused economic trauma, but also mental trauma. Afrika Mhlongo, a guard at the mall said they are living in fear, as some of the thieves threatened them when they tried to stop the looting.
“We are appealing to the police to be visible, as we rely on them for backup when there is looting. If they can regularly patrol the area, looters could be scared off,” Mhlongo.
In Eshowe, almost half of the retailers and offices in town were gutted. Gareth Reeves, the chairman of the Zululand Chamber of Commerce, Eshowe division, estimated that the damage could amount to a quarter of a billion.
“It is extremely disappointing that the looters not only looted seven buildings in Eshowe belonging to corporates, they also burnt the buildings. I cannot understand the reason to burn down the buildings. Boxer Cash and Carry, Shootout Centre, Browns Cash and Carry ,are all buildings that have been burnt down, which is obviously creating a shortage of food now. I am very disappointed, if I had to calculate a rough estimate I would say from R250 million to R350 million,” Reeves said.
In the small agricultural town of Gingindlovu, the R66 Mall, the town’s only mall, was saved by the community which stood up and defended it. As a precaution, the community still guards it, and operations are halted at 3pm each day.