I called my mom last night riddled with fear as videos and messages of chaos unfolding in KwaZulu-Natal hit closer to home than ever before. Riots have exploded across the province. Buildings and malls are up in flames, cars are being stoned, property destroyed and looted. My heart ached as my single mother described my 75-year-old grandfather perched on high alert, ready to defend the women of his family.
My youngest sister, 17, lay in bed last night listening to gunshots and explosions fill the evening air in the Upper Highway Area. My mom awoke this morning unsure of whether or not her decor shop was still standing.
— ROBYN IN THE HOOD (@robynhoodcpt) July 12, 2021
While I understand that gunshots and fear fill the minds of many South Africans each night as they lay their heads to rest, this notion is new to me. I am not oblivious to my privilege in this regard. However, it doesn’t douse the fear and panic that has sent me into a strange time-warp. It almost doesn’t seem real.
— Goolam (@goolammv) July 12, 2021
The last (almost) two years have been rough, to say the least. The suffering that has emerged alongside the COVID-19 pandemic is heart-wrenching. As infections rise and the country looks to tackle the third wave, I never imagined this rotten cherry-on-top reality.
The most bitter fact of all: these riots have sprung in reaction to the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma. Instances of violent uprisings emerged after the former president handed himself over to police to serve his 15-month prison sentence.
I waited in anticipation to hear what President Cyril Ramaphosa had planned to defend those fearing for their business, homes and lives when he addressed the nation last night, July 11.
I never get angered by politics, because for the most part, I feel unequipped to understand it fully. However, last night left me feeling bitterly helpless.
On Sunday, Ramaphosa said that “there can never be any justification for such violent, destructive and disruptive actions.”
“It is a matter of concern to all South Africans that some of these acts of violence are based on ethnic mobilisation.
“This must be condemned by all South Africans, at all costs, as we are a nation committed to non-racialism and non-tribalism, that is underpinned by the diversity and unity of all the people of South Africa, whatever their language, culture, religious beliefs and race,” Ramaphosa continued.
As riots continue, I’m fearful that nothing more than a few pars on “destructive and disruptive actions” has been signalled upon deaf ears. I seriously doubt that those setting fire to malls or exploding storage units took a moment to watch the address or read their Twitter feeds.
Mr President, what are you going to do?
— C.R.E.A.M 💰 (@joumasepost) July 12, 2021
In a statement on Monday, SAPS spokesperson Colonel Brenda Muridili revealed that 219 people had been arrested as of 8:30 on Monday morning, with 123 in KwaZulu-Natal and 96 in Gauteng, as per News24.
Seven people have died.
“Gauteng police are investigating the circumstances into the deaths of four people since the break out of violent protests in Gauteng. On Sunday morning, the police responded to a call from Alexandra Clinic where they found a body with gunshot wounds.
“Later that day, the body of a security guard with assault wounds was found at Jeppestown. The third body was discovered also on Sunday, in the evening in Dobsonville while the fourth body was discovered with gunshot wounds in Germiston. The cause of death for the security guard and as well as the body found in Dobsonville is part of investigations,” the statement read.
Two people have been killed in Kwa-Zulu Natal, one in Inanda and the second one in Umbilo. The circumstances leading up to their deaths is under investigation.
Muridili revealed that NatJoints is receiving intelligence support from its Intelligence Coordinating Committee comprising of SAPS Crime Intelligence, Defense Intelligence as well as State Security Intelligence, to enable law enforcement to counter these sporadic violent protests.
The country is afraid. #ShutDownSA is trending on Twitter as violence continues to plague both KZN and Gauteng today.
Meanwhile, unofficial reports from the people of my hometown have indicated sightings of army helicopters over Natal, while private security companies have begun taking matters into their own hands.
Residents in Pietermaritzburg have been advised to stay home, stock up on water, charge devices, and remain calm as rumours fly that the army is coming.
To our friends in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng – our hearts are with you. Take care…