The space between: Lawlessness grips South Africa
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By Ofentse Morwane
Johannesburg - Not a single person could not help but reflect on the post-apartheid epoch in South Africa without referring to the events that took place in parts of our country this week. They are historical and significant in many ways. An interesting episode in the country’s post-apartheid history.
Firstly, they have reaffirmed that South Africa is still a very violent nation. The nation is also still divided, not only politically but also across racial lines. Former president, Thabo Mbeki, once highlighted a disparity among South Africans - one white and wealthy, and the other black and poor.
The looting that gripped KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, to a greater extent, highlighted the socio-economic conditions affecting black people in this country. It affirmed that black people are still poor and many were shamelessly involved in the looting at various malls and shopping centres. The looting is, however, unjustifiable as it constitutes criminality. It all looks glib. It has become clear that criminals hijacked this campaign, which was initially a protest for the release of former president, Jacob Zuma, who is serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court.
South Africans once again proved that they are their own worst enemies. The mayhem that gripped the country will adversely impact their lives and the already struggling economy. It has left a trail of destruction. Many people have lost their jobs. The Constitution allows for a peaceful protest and what unfolded left many law-abiding citizens in shock and dismay. No amount of poverty would justify the destruction of infrastructure and the torching of buildings. Why does someone steal liquor if they don’t have food? The loss of lives is unjustifiable. South Africans have taken to various platforms to spew angry vitriol in reaction to what is taking place. They unanimously concede that this is sheer criminality and acts of anarchy.
It is comforting that some residents heeded a call to prevent looting and acts of criminality in their areas. One of the notable areas is Mahikeng in the North West province. Despite attempts by some hooligans to loot the city, law-abiding areas stood firm. This is commendable. Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, this week called on various sectors of the society to join in to stop further looting and destruction of infrastructure in their respective areas. “We are calling for calm and peace. Criminality will not be tolerated.” He appealed.
The involvement of community leaders, taxi associations, private security companies and law-abiding citizens have salvaged some part of the country from this mayhem
Sadly, this unrest has also led to the disregard of the lockdown regulations and health protocols put in place to prevent the exponential spread of the coronavirus. The next few weeks are certainly going to be very crucial in the fight against the pandemic. These protests have promoted mass gatherings which is conducive to spreading the virus. The country could possibly experience an upsurge in the number of daily infections in the next few weeks. The number of daily mortalities surged this week as more people succumbed to Covid-19 related complications.
One thing is certain. South Africa is in trouble. Politics have badly affected ordinary and law-abiding citizens. The voices of those who started the campaign to free Zuma are on mute. Perhaps a sign of fulfilment for them as the country is being terribly disrupted. Criminality continues unabated and people are losing their lives daily. President Cyril Ramaphosa made a passionate plea this week, calling for calm and for communities to desist from undermining the rule of law and inflicting damage on the economy. The damage that has been caused by this unrest will be felt by communities for months to come. God save South African and her people.
* Morwane writes in his personal capacity