Picture by Ayanda Ndamane.
Picture by Ayanda Ndamane.

The Space Between - Our communities saved South Africa from total destruction

By Time of article published Jul 25, 2021

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By Ofentse Morwane

A question still lingering on my mind is that what would have happened had more members of the public heeded the call to join the free Jacob Zuma campaign that led to protests that ravaged the KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng Provinces last week.

Watching the chaotic scenes of mayhem and destruction, I felt scared.

Our already ailing economy has been significantly damaged by the lockdown due to the coronavirus and we certainly did not need any this. The damage is estimated be billions of rands.

But who saved South African from further destruction and what could have been a total disaster? Our communities. The people who reacted and rallied to quell the unrest and riots. It is this firm stance that prevented further looting, destruction of property and infrastructure in some areas in the country.

It became abundantly clear that our law enforcement agencies were overwhelmed and outnumbered.

Communities, in certain parts of the country, stood up and protected businesses and malls from criminal elements. It became clear that the free Zuma campaign was hijacked by criminals and anarchists as it widened into an orgy of looting and destruction of property.

Law-abiding citizens decided not to take a spectator position and rather became actively involved in saving our country. Commendable. Community mobilisation in the fight against criminality remains a critical part of the work to be done by the security cluster in the various communities.

The establishment of community safety structures in the various policing precincts to deal with crime prevention is an important intervention to deal with lawlessness and acts of criminality. The need to solicit the collaboration between the police and communities in the fight against crime and lawlessness has become more critical than ever.

If it were not for ordinary citizens, a far worse situation could have been witnessed. Responsible citizenry prevailed when the situation appeared to be getting out of hand.

The taxi industry’s decision to join in and protect some of the businesses in the various areas is also commendable.

The perception that crime is the problem of the government will not take this country anywhere. That is, at least, what the recent unrest showed all of us. The social movement against crime needs to be sustained at all costs.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said the protests “have sought to exploit the social and economic conditions under which many South Africans live – conditions that have worsened since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic – and to provoke ordinary citizens and criminal networks to engage in opportunistic acts of looting”.

He correctly pointed out that the chaos was used as a smokescreen to carry out economic sabotage through targeted attacks on trucks, factories, warehouses, and other infrastructure, necessary for the functioning of the economy and provision of services to the communities.

The country and its economy will certainly take time to recover from this destruction. It has set us back a great deal. The recent unrest sought to test the health of our democracy. It certainly was a gigantic moment post democracy in this country.

Our communities must be applauded for the pivotal role they played in retaining law and order. For those who looted and destroyed property, the law should take its course.

* Morwane writes in his personal capacity

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