“Still looking for answers”: South Africa plunged into deadly riots | South Africa News


As a teenager, Thabani and Thobani Mlwando would wake up in their two-bedroom house every day before dawn to help their mother grow yam and sweet potatoes, which she would sell in the town.

They barely make ends meet, and in a rare good day, she can only earn 200 South African Rand (14 US dollars).

Births are only three minutes apart, Thabani is the oldest, and the Mlwando twins are inseparable.

“They are best friends. You can’t tell a secret without others knowing,” said their aunt Welile Ntima, who helped their single mother raise twin boys.

She smiled tearfully and said: “Tabani takes his role as the twin brother very seriously.”

The night after the arrest of former South African President Jacob Zuma, protests that led to robbery, riots and violence swept parts of his hometown of KwaZulu-Natal.

At around 8pm on July 8, 23-year-old Thabani and his twin brothers and a group of their friends heard about the robbery of a local grocery store in Songzhen, where one of them served as a car guard and decided Walk there.

The men stood in front of the store, stunned by the chaos of people grabbing food and electrical appliances for free, and running out unabated.

Tabani picked up a bottle of cold drink from the floor, but when he looked up, his brother and his friends had ventured into chaos.

Just after midnight, the group of people covered in blood, upset, and frantically returned to their residence-without him.

Tabani was shot and killed.

Looking for answers

His aunt was still shocked by the loss. She said: “We don’t know what happened to him. We are still looking for answers. People say this is the security of the store because he is stealing things. We are very poor, but I am so poor. Even prostitution will pay for his bail. Why do we kill our children?”

At least 117 people were killed in the large-scale riots that lasted for 9 days.

The destruction felt by families and communities who lost children as young as 14 years old is spread across the country.

Sino Ngema is a community activist who joined the volunteer cleanup team at the Pinetown grocery store. He said: “I can’t believe that a young man died here because of a bottle of cold drink, only 20 rand (1.40 US dollars)). A boy who was shot in Alexandra is standing near the mall. This is not fair.”

As the government tried to reach a consensus on the causes of the civil unrest, community leaders blamed poverty, severe inequality and rising unemployment.

Thapelo Mohapi of Abahlali Base Mjondolo, the largest poor inter-people organization in post-apartheid South Africa, said: “We have always said that people’s anger will develop in multiple directions. We know that people see opportunities to avoid sleeping hungry, and they seize them. Lived this opportunity.”

He continued: “If you look closely, those arrested for robbery are unemployed, poor and hungry.”

Thousands of people arrested

According to reports, about 2,500 people have been arrested for riot-related property damage, theft and robbery.

The civil strife mainly hit communities filled with informal settlements, inadequate housing and inhumane living conditions.

Mohapi hinted that this is a clear sign of the problem.

He said: “The pandemic requires one person to wash hands and keep clean, but many communities in towns and informal settlements have only one public toilet, one water pipe, and no electricity,” he said.

South Africa has experienced three waves of coronavirus.

In May 2020, during the first blockade, the South African government provided 350 rand (24 U.S. dollars) in social assistance to unemployed citizens and refugees.

In April 2021, the government terminated the grant, saying it could not afford it, causing damage to many people.

Mohapi said this is just one example of the many ways the government continues to fail and forget marginalized groups.

He said: “After all the strict lockdowns, the poorest of the poor have been the most affected.”

“There is no doubt that these protests are the result of the socio-economic situation in this country. This will not be the last time such a thing has happened.”

Environmental activist and sociology scholar Mpho Ndaba has similar views.

Ndaba said: “The national blockade highlights the extent to which most blacks in South Africa suffer from poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to food and adequate nutrition.”

“So, although we can recognize the political opportunism of some people [protests], We must also take into account the fact that people are hungry and unable to obtain basic needs. “

On July 13, a video of a young boy returning from a shopping mall carrying a clothing retailer’s bag went viral on social media.

The soft-spoken child from the town of Voslorus in Johannesburg took away socks, a bag of underwear, a pair of shoes and clothes.

South Africans worked together to find him, and a family and friend quickly organized a fundraiser, and the donations raised exceeded 50,000 rand (3,430 US dollars).

Thandi Makhosi, 34, an unemployed mother of three children, said she donated 200 rand (14 US dollars). She said: “I don’t have much, but no child should be subjected to this kind of violence because of basic needs. . It broke my heart. He may have been killed.”

Kayla Forster, a 28-year-old accountant who donated 1,000 rand (US$69), said that when she saw the video, it truly reflected the nature of these protests.

“He took what he needed. The mall is so big, he can take anything,” she said.

“Then we talked about poverty as usual. It is shocking that people live in such a terrible environment. I am embarrassed by this government.”

Ndaba insisted that things could not return to normal.

“The concept of’rebuilding South Africa’ (a word popular by the president since the riots) simply means returning to the status quo where poor blacks are still in an unstable position,” he said.

“We need a new’normality’ that includes key structural interventions.”





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