*This article has been edited in order to correct factual errors in the original post
Shops are being looted. People are being shot. Raids and rallies are happening left, right and centre. A real-life purge seems to be taking over the cities of the KwaZulu-Natal and Guateng Provinces as people rage over recent political events and the ongoing inequality in the country and have taken the law into their own hands. Civil Unrest resurfaced when former president, Jacob Zuma, was handed a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court, following a long string of corruption and fraud charges.
Following the sentencing of the former president, his supporters flooded the streets of his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. They were angered by what they believed was Zuma being the victim of a political witch-hunt. Jacob Zuma was often a popular figure with ordinary South Africans during his 9-year reign.
While South Africa has seen steady growth over the 27 years since the abolishment of apartheid, there are still a number of issues to be addressed to this day; mainly being the huge income gap within the economy of the population. Following the sentencing of the former president, the issue of injustice within the state is once again highlighted, if not amplified.
And so came the looting. With more than 1,200 people arrested and over 330 people dead, current president, Cyril Ramaphosa was compelled to enforce troops to end the violence ransacking the streets. But the end of violence has not equated to the end of destruction. After the burning down of factories and pillaging of local businesses, people have been left starving and in devastation with no food or medicine available, let alone funds to rebuild their broken livelihoods.
However, the problem isn’t just confined to the borders of South Africa but stretches much further across the water into our very own University where our international students lay waiting for updates on their families, friends, and home neighbourhoods.
One such student is Maddison Bruce, a second-year law student from Durban. With her hometown being pillaged as well as her parents’ business being burned to the ground, she is no stranger to the worry and outrage felt by so many South Africans both abroad and at home. To get a better insight, I asked Maddison for her thoughts on the situation. “This is years and years of unrest due to poor government management. There’s such a huge income gap in South Africa and people are desperate”, she explains, “We’re supposed to be working together for equality, that’s what Mandela wanted, that’s what he fought for…”
“The problem is now; there’s no food, farmers are losing out on profits because there’s no stores buying their products; foreign investment is pulling out of the country, there’s no stores open and companies have had to shut down and un-employ staff, which just further increases the unemployment rate and poverty.”
With little to no police intervention, communities have resorted to taking things into their own hands to defend their businesses and neighbourhoods, with some even dousing the floors of their establishments with oil so to foil intruders. “It’s honestly insane, it’s so much deeper than the jailing of Jacob Zuma.”
But with South Africa trying to declare a state emergency, what can we do to help? I asked the Africa Society for their thoughts on the subject “It is vital to spread awareness so that these issues can be addressed globally and less lives can be left miserable at the cost of an incompatible government.” We must become aware of the world around us. Read articles. Watch the news (as depressing as it may be sometimes). We can also employ our best friend, Social Media, to bring attention to the crisis. “Post and repost information relating to what is going on in South Africa. Sign and donate legit petitions which are made on behalf of South Africa.”
As a country that is no stranger to political strife, I think we can all recognise the importance and significance of outside help. We too have suffered from the lack of basic necessities; food, water, medicine. So with the easiness of it all, with a simple repost, a quick signature, even a small conversation, we can pull together to do our bit. To be aware of the world around us, and bring aid to those who need it.
“We can be voices for the Unheard.”
Rhoen Eate – Features Editor