South Africa


Uneasy calm: Gauteng communities unite to clean up, as SACC proposes amnesty period for looters

Uneasy calm: Gauteng communities unite to clean up, as SACC proposes amnesty period for looters
Hundreds of people wanting to buy groceries queue outside Alex Mall - the only shopping mall that was not looted during the sporadic looting, 15 July, 2021. (Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

As violence eased after days of unrest across parts of Gauteng, communities reeling from the destruction came together to begin the long process of cleaning up and rebuilding what was lost. Law enforcement authorities meanwhile appear to be honing in on those who orchestrated the chaos.

Many Gauteng malls that were targets of looting and arson over the last week were still sites of activity on Thursday, but the acts of violence had been replaced with acts of civic duty as community members banded together to protect and clean their local facilities.

At least 45 people died during the violence in Gauteng, which erupted in the province last weekend after it spread from KwaZulu-Natal. In Gauteng, Johannesburg’s CBD and inner-city and townships such as Soweto, Katlehong, Vosloorus, Daveyton, Alexandra and Tembisa bore the brunt of what has been described as the most widespread unrest during the democratic era.

While parts of KwaZulu-Natal continue to experience unrest, the situation in Gauteng has continued to calm down since the SANDF was deployed on Monday 12 July. It could take up to two years to repair structural damage at some shopping centres but communities have started the clean-up process.

On 15 July, 2021, people queue outside Alex Mall. (Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

In Alexandra, residents were cleaning debris at the Pan Africa Mall on Thursday. In Soweto, communities had banded together to tidy Diepkloof Square and protect Maponya Mall.

Similar activities were reported in Daveyton at Mayfield Square and Daveyton Mall as well as in Tembisa and Vosloorus. Those affected and those wanting to lend a hand have offered their services in person and online through the RebuildSA Facebook group.

SACC appeals to looters to return goods

In a briefing on Thursday, the South African Council of Churches (SACC) called for an end to the violence and looting. SACC General Secretary Bishop Mpumlwana called on looters to return stolen goods and proposed an amnesty period of between a week or two “during which time anyone who returns goods will not be prosecuted.”.

Earlier on Thursday, Mpumlwana visited Ndofaya Mall, where at least 10 people died during the looting in Meadowlands, Soweto. The SACC also said a restoration fund should be established to assist businesses affected by looting and suggested using money recovered from State Capture cases.

“Today we stand in the midst of debris and brokenness. Over 70 lives have been senselessly lost to this mayhem,” said Mpumlwana.

“The debris of ruined commercial enterprises as big malls are hollowed and goods transporter trucks lie as waste on the roadside,” he continued.

“This is the brokenness of hope for families that put their life savings into their small businesses. We sit today with despair, as many communities in the affected areas may be without access to basic supplies for the days and weeks ahead.”

Communities affected by looting have reported severe shortages in access to basic goods while panic buying has limited available goods in unaffected areas. 

People queue in the morning to enter stores at Alex Mall – the only shopping mall that was not looted during the sporadic violence, 15 July 2021. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

Residents resume shopping at Alex Mall, the only shopping mall that was not looted during the violent protests that erupted over the past week, 15 July 2021. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

A number of large retailers have committed to restocking stores and measures have been introduced to ensure there is available fuel at petrol stations, but supply lines in certain areas are strained while parts of the N3 remain closed.

As the violence slowly subsides in Gauteng, law enforcement agencies appear to be honing in on those who contributed to sparking the unrest after former president Jacob Zuma was jailed last week for contempt of court.

‘Unrest was orchestrated’

Deputy Minister State Security Zizi Kodwa told News24 he suspected the unrest was orchestrated and executed by former uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) members who knew the tactics of the ANC’s armed wing, which was operational during apartheid. Police Minister Bheki Cele has said SAPS is looking at 10 to 12 people suspected of agitating violence.

“We are already knocking on the doors of people. We have identified key people. We have no choice,” said Kodwa.

TimesLive reported that authorities are investigating social media groups, including a WhatsApp group called “Shutdown Ethekwini” that was established last Thursday, a day after Zuma was incarcerated, and discussed plans to block highways and attack malls. The group included ANC members and government officials.

See this interactive map below – you can click on the red hot spots for specific details of the areas, and can zoom in using your mouse.

These hotspots have been collated from reports of violence between Friday, 9 July, and Wednesday, 14 July 2021, and represent key areas of violence rather than all instances. They are not exhaustive and instances of violence continue to be reported. On Wednesday, 14 July, at 4.30pm, Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said 52 incidents of violence in Gauteng and 156 incidents in KwaZulu-Natal had been reported overnight. (Collated by Greg Nicolson and Karabo Mafolo in collaboration with data from the Institute for Security Studies)


Western Cape: Social media fuels fear

Fears that the looting would spread across the country have been unfounded. In Western Cape, misleading social media posts have spread fear and uncertainty, leading to a number of mall closures, despite no reported instances of related violence.

“An incident in Vrygrond area in Cape Town [on Wednesday] night was a service delivery protest and not a looting incident. No further incidents have been reported,” the Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC).

Premier Alan Winde. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

A message being distributed on social media saying that there is a threat to seven Cape Town malls is not true, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde told Cape Talk on Thursday morning.

“It was actually sent for verification and the copy sent for verification was distributed,” said the premier.

The PDMC said the threat had been assessed and “it is not considered to be a major concern.” According to the PDMC, there is no need for malls to close at this stage and “should the situation change, this would be communicated immediately.” DM Additional reporting by Victoria O’Regan



Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • James Francis says:

    I can get behind an amnesty. The real culprits are the Zuma faction who we now know will burn South Africa down if it will save their backsides. The looters were largely desperate people. The orchestrators are traitors and should be dealt with as such.

  • Sam Joubs says:

    The SACC should stick to their core business which is bullshitting the poor and the weak.

  • Gert McCarthy says:

    Absolutely no amnesty for the looters, will you and me get amnesty if we did this. They must be taught a lesson in responsibility and “aanspreeklikheid”. This cannot be tolerated, amnesty today & they repeat next time they are unhappy about something.

    • Marcel Anceaux says:

      Have to agree. NO amnesty. There is already enough of a culture of impunity in SA. But even more the real Head Honchos of this failed coup, and the architects of all the state capture, the rampant corruption should be brought to book, incarcerated and as much of the looted funds should be recouped.
      How much did JZ finally pay back of the R 7.8 million he borrowed from the collapsed VBS bank ? That was all he had to pay back, after R 900 m was spent on two new roads to his rural homestead, and R 246 m for the buildings at Nkandla.
      People are not victims of poverty, but mostly lack understanding of economics. This economic ignorance is so prevalent between the politicians, the leaders and opinion shapers of SA. Utterly clueless.
      This so often mentioned triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment is not an act of nature, but purely created by disastrous financial/ economic management by the tripartite alliance. The real issue is unemployment, because of too high wages, restrictive labour laws, and a by now deeply rooted culture of entitlement, poor labour ethics, and work discipline.

      • Johann Olivier says:

        Yes…& no. South Africa remains one of the most – if not the most – unequal societies on earth. Strong labour laws & fair compensation should be mandated. The wild card has little to do with that. The issue is the age-old one: corruption & historic distribution of wealth. Blaming workers, & the poorest, for societies ills is always a crutch.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    I believe an amnesty for looters who wantonly destroyed billions of Rands of infrastructure and cost thousands their jobs, would set a very unfortunate precedent. Essentially saying that such behaviour is OK. However, if this was done, surely all the criminal records of those who broke really serious Covid regulations, like walking on a beach, should be cleared. How can these be compared?

  • L Dennis says:

    Absolutely not!!!economic treason ……..where was the SACC when the devastation started? To so quickly suggest a pardon makes me wonder.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    “We have identified key people. We have no choice.” Is this a note of regret on Kodwas part?

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