Pretoria - Civilians, taxi associations, informal traders, churches and community leaders have declared that no looting and vandalism will be allowed in Tshwane amid the civil unrest.
What started out as a handful of community members coming to the aid of local businesses has gained more traction in the metro.
By yesterday taxi associations and civil rights groups had added their support to the campaign to guard the city against the unrest spreading through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Taxi operators and residents came out in their numbers outside Soshanguve Crossing to denounce the looting and attacks on shops in the area.
Former Miss Teen South Africa Phuti Kgomo was also there. She said she joined the demonstration in solidarity with the community to send a clear message that there would be no looting.
“This is our home and we cannot let people come to destroy our livelihoods so we’re here standing for our parents, children and grandparents because if we destroy our infrastructure how are we going to live and survive tomorrow?
“When I see my brothers and sisters here standing on the frontlines, I am proud and emotional. I want to thank them for doing this. I am proud to be from Soshanguve and I only hope others will also stand and fight for their own.”
Soshanguve Taxi Owners Association spokesman, McKeed Mogale, said they would protect their mall because the destruction of businesses would mean they lost customers to and from the mall.
Mogale said that allowing criminals to loot and destroy the infrastructure would lead to them and other community members being forced to travel further to get medication and food supplies, and also lead to the loss of crucial jobs for many.
“We are not politicians and we are not supporting or against anyone. We are business people and we know that if it falls it may take months to rebuild or never even be rebuilt. We can’t let that happen.”
The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), the Taxi Operations Peace Initiative Conglomerated Association and the National Taxi Association also added the industry’s muscle to the calls. All three instructed all associations in the region to go out to protect all shopping malls and centres.
Santaco regional leader Abner Tsebe said the taxi industry in Tshwane had already taken this position in anticipation of the scenes of violence, looting and vandalism taking place in Johannesburg spreading to Tshwane. “The leadership of the industry strongly warns those with intentions to loot to desist from any attempts as they will find the industry waiting because this vandalism will not only destroy jobs, but will affect the taxi industry business.”
Frans Ramodikwe, head of the Hawkers Association, said their members had pledged to protect the Central City shopping centre in Mabopane in every way possible after being told some criminal elements had been eyeing the business area and tried to loot shops on Monday.
Ramodikwe said the informal traders had taken the stance to help guard the businesses as the acts of vandalism would ultimately end up threatening their own “honest” way of making a living.
“We are going to deploy some of our members alongside those of taxi associations to protect Central City and all neighbouring businesses. We warn members of society to refrain from this looting anarchy because they are going to be met by the full might of the law.”
Civil Rights organisation #NotInMyName International said they had joined taxi associations in Mamelodi to help defend against any rogue elements targeting the Denlyn Shopping Centre. “We want to warn those planning to loot Denlyn that they will find us waiting and ready to defend the mall.
“Today we choose to stand as neighbours with South African citizens ready to protect and rebuild our townships," said #NotInMyName secretary-general Themba Masango. “We have the opportunity to show our children that courage can rise from the ashes. We call on all forward-thinking South Africans to join us as we embark on cleaning our malls, spazas and businesses to get back on their feet.” The South African Council of Churches also added its voice to the calls for calm and order to be restored to the country, stating that the latest developments surrounding the #FreeJacobZuma campaign had merely turned into needless looting and damage to property.
Tshwane mayor Randall Williams extended his gratitude to the city’s residents for uniting against criminality and looting. “I am very proud to note that many of our residents, community policing forums, local taxi associations, community and residential groups have come together to prevent lawlessness in the capital city.”
Williams said that to date Tshwane has experienced minimal incidents of criminality, with just over 100 people having been arrested by the Tshwane Metro Police Department and SAPS teams. They were maintaining high visibility in hot spot areas and monitoring shopping centres around Tshwane. “It is important we work together with law enforcement and not take the law into our own hands.”