More than two hundred people died and many more were injured in a week of looting and destruction in the country’s economic heartland of Gauteng (including Johannesburg and Pretoria) and KwaZulu-Natal (which includes the country’s two biggest ports, Durban and Richards Bay).
Hundreds of shopping malls, supermarkets, warehouses and factories were burnt down, with the police reluctant to intervene. Armed vigilantes are guarding many suburbs. The situation quietened only when the government deployed 25,000 troops.
Johnson says this huge failure can only be blamed on the African National Congress, which has been in power for 27 years. ‘The party is deeply corrupt, its ministers inept and incompetent, and many of its policies are damaging the economy. The party is riven by factionalism with President Ramaphosa’s moderates opposed by the former president Jacob Zuma’s left-wing kleptocrats.
‘The explosion of violence followed the jailing of Zuma for his flagrant contempt of court, after he had refused to co-operate with the inquiry into the looting of the state under his presidency. Nobody seriously doubts that Zuma stole millions, probably billions, of rands and he still faces charges of racketeering, money-laundering and sundry other crimes. But Zuma, still supported by his Zulu followers, threatened to make the country ungovernable if the government dared to jail him.
‘The rioting began as Zuma’s followers, urged on by his children and, doubtless, by Zuma himself, sought to fulfil this threat. Former members of the state security services who played such a key role in his presidency helped plan the sabotage campaign — they are now on the run. Zuma has always had strong connections into criminal networks via his relatives in the taxi industry, and these have clearly been active too.
‘The campaign began with the hijacking and burning of lorries. The police, scared and ineffective, watched but did nothing. Next came the looting and burning of a few shops. Again the police did nothing. Word spread that you could go “shopping without money”, creating huge excitement among the ranks of the millions of poor and unemployed Zulus who inhabit the townships and squatter camps around Durban and Pietermaritzburg. From there word spread quickly into every small town of the province.
‘Most of the looters were unconcerned about Zuma’s fate: they simply realised that opportunity was staring them in the face. They flocked to the shopping malls and began to loot them. Quickly the spree spread to Johannesburg, home to many more Zulus, though many others joined in. Most of the looters were poor, on foot and took away their loot in supermarket trolleys, but some arrived in cars, sometimes very expensive cars. Some even came with vast trailers to haul away freezers, fridges and cookers. Huge queues of cars swamped the freeways, all heading for the malls, and other forms of criminality blossomed — protection rackets, attacks on and thefts from other motorists, anything that offered a quick buck.’
Far from improving the situation of black South Africans, the ANC has made the country the most unequal in the world, with the governing elite far richer than the apartheid government, the unemployed and poor being largely ignored. Youth unemployment is about 70%.
You can read Johnson’s full article on this link: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/1153-orgy-of-looting-and-corruption-has-destroyed-mandelas-dream. We also draw your attention to Cathy Buckle’s latest article giving a Zimbabwean perspective on the South African crisis (see: https://www.thezimbabwean.co/2021/07/oh-south-africa/).
- Because of the coronavirus we can no longer physically meet outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London, so we have a virtual Vigil while the restrictions continue. We ask our activists to put on Vigil / ROHR / Zimbabwe regalia and take a photo of themselves holding an appropriate poster reflecting our protest against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. The photos are uploaded on our Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/albums/72157719556160879. Our virtual Vigil activists today were Jacob Mandipira and Margaret Manenge who both kindly contributed to Vigil funds.
- For Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website.
- The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organisation based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organisation on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is http://www.rohrzimbabwe.org/. Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
- The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil. All proceeds go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe’s work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
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