On Monday, members of the Congress of SA Students (Cosas) marched to Luthuli House against violence at schools. Instead, the march degenerated into violence when the pupils allegedly looted stores and attacked street vendors in the CBD, while blocking off Pixley Seme Street for over an hour.
Cosas provincial secretary Teboho Magafane distanced his organisation from the chaos, blaming homeless people for taking advantage of the march. “Many people looted in the CBD and pretended to be students. It’s the homeless people who pretended to be students. If the students looted, they would have been arrested by now.”
Asked where the homeless would have got the school uniforms, Magafane said: “ Look, I believe that whenever there is a march there are people who will join to cause anarchy and deviate from the original goal. The reality is that the protest was advertised all over the media and anyone could have joined in.”
Magafane said Cosas would investigate to see if their members were among the looters. However, legally it seems that Cosas would have to shoulder some blame. In 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled that organisations can be held responsible for damages when protests degenerate into violence, vandalism and looting. In the matter between SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union and the City of Cape Town, it was found that the union faced an estimated bill of R1.5million for damages to municipal and private property caused during a 2006 security guard strike in the Cape Town city centre.
The owner of Bree Hardware was on Tuesday discharged from hospital with six stitches to the head. He was attacked by the rowdy crowd who then stole stock from the shops.
Staff at his shop were repacking the cupboards and shelves with new stock.
“We are not even going to open a case because the police were there when everything happened and they didn’t do anything. South Africa’s government is inefficient and there is no justice,” said one worker.
The owner of an electronics store where over 30 cellphones were stolen, and who identified himself only as SK Adil, said: “A few customers have come to collect their phones and I explained the situation... and I’m lucky they are not angry. Others are still going to come, so I will have to keep explaining and also try to hustle money to replace the stolen phones.”
A salon employee at Rany Hair and Beauty Space, Gift Onyia, who had her handbag and wig stock, Brazilian hairpieces, nail sets and hair machinery stolen, said she was still trying to make a plan to continue trading.
Spat Tops in Newtown and Spar Supermarket in Hillbrow were also trashed and looted on Monday.
Tracy Fouche, assistant to the CEO of Fontana Holdings SPAR, Dario Afeltra, said their footage of the incident had been handed over to the authorities. “The incident has had a huge impact as we weren’t able to trade (on Tuesday). We have also had to source stock from other branches. We are still trying to establish the exact amount (of the loss), which is going to take some time to verify,” said Fouche.