“We have lost everything”: Despair spreads after unrest in South Africa | Wall Street Journal South Africa News

Johannesburg, South Africa—— The shelf was broken, the decorations on the wall were torn off, and the empty boxes of the colorful party supplies in Thandi Johnson’s store were littered. The hard-hit shopkeeper rummaged through the ruins of her popular party rental shop in Diepkloof, Soweto, looking for anything she might be able to save.


Inside TWJ Events after the turmoil [Courtesy Thandi Johnson]

Johnson, 41, recalled: “On Monday, I took a day off, so my husband and I had a routine morning jog.”

“One of my employees called to say that the riots in the Diepkloof area were getting worse, so I suggested that they close the store and go home for safety reasons.”

Soon after, Johnson received another call she had been afraid of: TWJ Events-named after herself, her husband Wayne and son Johnson-were looted in the deadly unrest that has swept parts of South Africa in the past week. And destroy.

“I’m very sad,” Johnson said. “The Diepkloof community hurt me deeply. It took us 12 years to build this business.”

‘I have nothing to say’

In the early morning of July 8, after the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma, gunfire and gasoline bombs echoed in KwaZulu Natal Province.

In the days after that, sporadic protests turned into rampant robberies, becoming more violent and destructive in the two largest economic centers of Southern Africa, Durban and Johannesburg.

Shops were set ablaze, shops were looted, community members clashed with the police, this was the worst mass violence in South Africa since the end of the white minority rule in 1994.

The riots resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people, including children, the elderly and the police, and a total of more than 2,500 people were arrested.

In a statement on Friday night, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that damage to property and infrastructure would cost the country billions of rand.

People go to work and pass by a car that was set on fire by an angry mob [Rajesh Jantilal/AFP]

From large multinational companies to troubled small businesses, chaos and destruction are ruthless and choiceless. However, according to Steve Ledwaba, a businessman in Alexandra Town, Johannesburg, in stark contrast, his store was vandalized and looted early on Friday morning, and the community convenience store may It is more difficult to recover from the massacre.

“I’m speechless,” the 54-year-old said. “I have lost everything. I serve this community, I know everyone, and I help them every day.”

Ledwaba began selling a series of perishable goods such as bread and milk to the community from the back door of his two-bedroom house in 2005 before opening his own store.

“I wake up at 3am every day to make fresh vetkoeks [fried dough bread] For those who take the train to work at 4 in the morning. I don’t mind if people who need bread, Pampers or even cold drinks lack R1. Now they ruined me. “

‘Planning and coordination’

The government has deployed the South African Defence Force (SANDF) to the areas most affected by the unrest, and Ramaphosa said on Friday that the violence was “planned and coordinated” and that the government would not allow “anarchy and chaos” to occupy Upper hand. In South Africa.

“We will not allow anarchy and chaos to spread in our country,” Ramaphosa told reporters during his visit to the city of Ethikwini.

President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Kwamassu Bridge City on Friday [Rajesh Jantilal/AFP]

Although people still have questions about the root causes of violence and riots, some believe that they are destined to happen.

Vuyo Zungula, opposition MP and chairman of the African Transformation Movement, said: “Most of the people who robbed were poor and unemployed. They were tired of inequality.” He described these events as South Africa’s unresolved economic gap and most historical The disadvantaged black population faces serious insults.

“A man was killed in Tembisa holding a loaf of bread and milk.”

Zungula said he believes that civil unrest of this nature and scale will continue in the next few years unless meaningful economic reforms are made to benefit those who have been marginalized for a long time.

In 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Agrarian Reform issued the Land Audit Report, a 36-page document that highlighted the economic gap and land ownership of South Africa’s racialization. According to the report, blacks, who make up the majority of the population, only own 4% of the land, while whites, who make up only 12% of the population, own 72% of the land.

In 2019, South Africa was named the most unequal country in the world by the World Bank. Unemployment rate reached a staggering 32.6%

“This is not just hunger; it is years of economic and psychological oppression of the poor. It is the result of suffering and exclusion,” said Mabutho Mthimkhulu, a community activist and missionary from the local Presbyterian branch of Soweto. “We need to rebuild the country, but things cannot return to the way they were.”

“We are just beginning to recover”

During the turmoil, many companies are trying to get back on their feet. The previous strict coronavirus lockdown has led to the closure of restaurants, construction companies and other industries because the pandemic has caused financial losses to the country. South Africa’s economy shrank by 7% last year, after growing by 0.2% in the previous year.

Zandi Montumo, 49, just reopened her salon in Jabulani Mall in Soweto after closing in December last year when her shop was attacked.

“We have just started to recover, so I am very sad,” she said.

“I am actually one of the lucky ones; only the windows were damaged and some electrical appliances were taken away, but the damage can be restored.”

However, Montumo said that it is understandable for the poor to enter the institution and take away what they have been deprived of.

“I’ve been there,” she said. “I know that there is nothing to feed the child’s feeling. I feel sorry for small businesses, but the government should be responsible for the failures of our people living in poverty.”

Johnson also chose to focus on the path forward, not only rebuilding her store, but also rebuilding her community relations. “It almost destroyed my care for the Diepkloof community, but because I have received so much love and support from people everywhere, it makes it easier for me to forgive,” she said.

“Broad support forced me to re-behave. Love conquered everything. I will always cherish the support and friendship that this crisis brings. I can forgive the looters, although I will not forget my feelings,” Johnson added.

“Hope we all learned our lesson from this crisis.”

After days of robbery, volunteer John Badersire cleared the streets [Rogan Ward/Reuters]

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