Two weeks ago, on June 29, the Constitutional Court found former president Jacob Zuma guilty of the crime of contempt of court for failure to comply with the order made by the same court in January, and sentenced Zuma to 15 months in prison, with no right to appeal. Zuma was given five days to hand himself over. Last Wednesday, July 7, he handed himself in and entered the Estcourt Correctional Centre.
Zuma’s Constitutional Court loss and subsequent imprisonment set off a wave of inflammatory and celebratory tweets from his children as well as the Jacob Zuma Foundation and other supporters.
Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma (37), with 230 700 followers on Twitter, tweeted on June 29: “A war declaration” and “A path has been chosen, many will suffer”, and on July 10: “They declared war. Let them rip the fruits!” … #Free JacobZuma.
Twitter deleted the tweets that followed after that.
Duduzane’s twin sister Duduzile ‘Dudu’ Zuma-Sambudla, with 107 900 followers on Twitter, tweeted many celebratory tweets of burning cars and infrastructure, including: Cdes [comrades] In Diepkloof…We See You! Amandla; [to] Cdes In Richards Bay, We See You! Amandla Raised fist!!! (Who does sugar cane that is being burnt belong to?); Somewhere In SA…Flames Of Freedom! Amandla Raised fistRaised fistRaised fist!!!; Mooi Plaza…We See You!!! … #FreeJacobZuma.
The violence flared up in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and moved to Gauteng. KZN has over a number of years been a hotbed of protest.
Violent protest erupted overnight on the N3 highway near Mooi River on Friday night (July 9), with trucks being torched. A section of the main freeway at the toll plaza was blocked off. Rioters became emboldened, blocking roads and attacking vehicles.
Many malls, factories, warehouses, and small shops have been cleaned out and set alight.
The hashtags SouthAfricaIsBurning and #ShutDownSouthAfrica were used to refer to riot areas, but to also celebrate “successful” riots.
As I write, I am watching a crowded Queen Nandi Drive, which runs between KwaMashu and Durban North. Bakkies and vans overloaded with fridges and furniture are slowly making their way through throngs of ‘protestors’ carrying microwaves and stuffed boxes, and pushing trolleys full of wares.
We await the identification, arrest and charging of the instigators and agitators.
The wanton destruction of every physical object that couldn’t be stolen by the “political protestors, looters, the desperate in need of food” is mind boggling.
Nothing was safe – not the small shop that weaved ladies’ hair, not the pharmacy, not even the clinic. The anguish of the pharmacist trying to save her medicines stood in stark contrast to the brazenness of a group of men trying to remove the gate of a homestead while they were being videoed by the woman in the house who had no one around to protect her.
The looting and burning is indiscriminate, from warehouses to clothing factories.
Gauteng Premier Mayor David Makhura said the blocking of roads has hampered the mobility of ambulances, the delivery of oxygen, and the administering of vaccines. Vaccine sites have been closed.
Businesses that were built up from nothing but pure vision and the hard work of the entrepreneur may never recover.
If the looting is political, why destroy the environment in which you live?
Or are there different ‘classes’ of looters?
Those bent on destroying the businesses of foreign nationals in the townships, others taking the opportunity to steal luxury goods and pack them in their luxury motor vehicle, political looters who were told to cause chaos … and the poor who took the opportunity to steal because it had presented itself?
Organised crime has taken advantage of the mayhem and the low police profile.
It is hard to align the stealing of a luxury TV with a protest against the arrest of Zuma, but perhaps there is a deeper philosophical message that I have missed.
Does insurance cover riot damage?
The state-owned Sasria (South African Special Risk Insurance Association) is the only insurance company that covers damage caused by risks such as politically motivated malicious acts, riots, strike action, terrorism and public disorder.
It was formed over 40 years ago – “inspired by courageous young people who shaped the course of history for South Africans through a series of demonstrations and protests known as the 1976 Soweto Uprising”.
Sasria had R8.4 billion in assets under management as at March 30, 2020.
Sasria also undertakes research and investigation of any risks that can be considered to be of national interest. It was not possible to contact the association in time for publication, regarding any intelligence they may have on these riots.
One small business that has fallen victim
An example of a victim of the unrest and looting is Tiro Funeral Solutions (tiroinsurance.co.za), a business established by Tiro Ratone, a well-known social entrepreneur and marketing practitioner.
Only a month ago, Tiro celebrated its 10th anniversary. Tiro is well known for its elaborate tombstones, and also specialises in funeral insurance cover. On June 22 it announced that it would soon be opening three new branches, in Kagiso Mall, Mamelodi Mall and Hebron Mall.
Today, the business is in tatters.
Mara Why? Why take then burn? Protea Gardens and Dobson Point pic.twitter.com/GWLejieAN2
— Tiro Ratone (@tiro_ratone) July 13, 2021
All 12 branches completely destroyed. From shopfronts, electrical, servers, computers, furniture, security infrastructure, POS machines, G4S equipment, LCD monitors, etc. Today we must process and PAY claims, but unfortunately we don’t have anywhere to work from & NOTHING!
— Tiro Ratone (@tiro_ratone) July 13, 2021
His branches were trashed by criminal looters, who, under the guise of “protest action”, systematically destroyed, broke, smashed and stole everything in sight. He posted pictures of shattered windows, demolished offices, equipment lying in pieces, and wires pulled out of walls.
Ratone’s message on his website – “I was born into and inherited a beautiful world. I commit myself to make sure that one day when I’m not around, I have played my part to ensure that I leave behind an even more beautiful and better world!” – is heart breaking.
There is only one winner
We now face possible food, fuel and medical supplies shortages. Many have lost their livelihoods, single parents may now be in jail, and medical staff, already working under pressure trying to deal with Covid-19 patients, are now having to deal with injuries from the unrest.
With the vaccination rollout hampered even further, the only winner is Covid-19.
That’s how a pandemic thrives – it feeds off the weaknesses of the community.