It was inevitable that thousands of poor, unemployed and desperate youths would be mobilised to join the looting spree sweeping the country. The warning signs have been there for quite a while.
Close to 2,000 people have been arrested so far, with the number of deaths increasing as the crisis continues. Out of desperation, an army of unemployed youths, young girls, grannies and children joined in the looting which appears to have been orchestrated by thugs.
Should the state arrest all the hundreds of thousands of people who became party to looting? Absolutely not. It will not be in the best interests of justice to arrest in large numbers poor and unemployed people who were hoodwinked into joining the looting.
It will be an absolute travesty of justice to condemn them to having criminal records when most were forced to steal because of hunger. This will condemn them to a doomed future.
Instead, it is the state’s responsibility to find the masterminds who engineered this heinous crime.
Behind this all, we need to consider that the government under President Cyril Ramaphosa has failed to put young people at the centre of the economy. Since the advent of democracy, the many government job creation programmes have failed.
Stats SA’s latest figures on unemployment are disheartening, showing the hopelessness of many job seekers. The expanded definition of unemployment, which includes those discouraged from seeking work, increased to 42.6% in the fourth quarter.
Shockingly, about 63.2% of those between 15 and 24 are at the centre of the unemployment crisis. Black Africans, especially women, are the most affected, with no prospects for the future. This is the same group that has been used to bolster the looting across mostly KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
What has been exposed is the weak state, with its incapable security cluster comprising the intelligence, police and state security branches. Prior to the burning of the country, the ground was fertile and it was simple for opportunists to seize the moment and launch their attack.
Did the intelligence services know beforehand about the plan to destabilise our country? Why didn’t they act in time to prevent chaos?
For a long time, there has been a leadership vacuum in our communities. The result of this saw the president deploying the army on its own citizens — something that should be a last resort after all else has been tried. Leaders from all arms of government should have been on the ground engaging with communities to avert the chaos.
President Ramaphosa has missed an opportunity to lead from the front. He should have been the first on the ground, assuring the nation and international community that the state was in control. DM
Vuyolwethu Zungula is president of the African Transformation Movement (ATM) and is a member of Parliament.
Riding a Black Unicorn Down the Side of an Erupting Volcano While Drinking from a Chalice Filled with the Laughter of Small Children is the title of a dark cabaret album by 'Voltaire'
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