Violent riots plunge South Africa into chaos following the imprisonment of ex-President Zuma.
In a climate of lawlessness there is plunder.
There are dead.
Now the military should judge it.
Durban - Burning blockades, shots, chaos and powerless police officers: In South Africa's economic center around Johannesburg and in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, violence has been raging for days.
There are dead and injured, shopping malls on fire and highways and trunk roads blocked. They bring important logistics chains, but also buses and trains in Africa's strongest economy, to a standstill. The willingness to use violence is shocking. On Monday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned a total of ten dead and four injured police officers in his speech to the nation - by Tuesday afternoon the number had already exceeded 40 deaths. "Anarchy" was the headline of the newspaper "The Citizen".
During Ramaphosa's speech to the nation, the treadmill TV showed live images from a shopping center in Durban, where people seemed to be strolling freely with baskets and other bins to loot. "It's not us," said the President. What began as local protests against the imprisonment of ex-President Jacob Zuma has long since taken on a life of its own and developed a new dynamic. Against the background of the general frustration of many South Africans about the increased unemployment and lack of prospects as well as blatant inequality due to Covid restrictions, a kind of collective intoxication suddenly broke out.
"It looks like a sale shortly after Christmas," said a reporter who watched crowds of people with the police. Eyewitnesses reported in front of the camera on people who drove up in mid-range cars and took away refrigerators, beds, clothes, shoes or even furniture. The law enforcement officers had to watch powerlessly in view of the overwhelming numbers or take cover from stone throwers. Looters played cat and mouse and came back as soon as the cops were gone.
Everything that could be taken with you was carried away: cell phones, TV sets, bags full of groceries, but also doors or tills. Even a picture of a young man with a dildo in hand made the rounds on social media. There - for example in Durban - neighborhood help was organized to prevent the anarchy from spilling over into the residential areas. According to the German consulate, almost 5,000 Germans - and about three times the number of so-called "Springbok Germans" - South Africans of German origin live in the local province of KwaZulu-Natal. “Our community is on standby - they are even burning sugar farms down,” said Chris Schädle, who runs his “Siggi's” restaurant in the coastal town of Salt Rock.
In the port city of Durban, for example, a celebration of the German school was overshadowed by the violence.
Aerial photos from the TV station eNCA showed several large warehouses and shopping centers in flames, while people with apparently looted goods were leaving the premises on the ground.
From a hardware store, people with building materials ran down an empty highway.
The TV reporter in the helicopter spoke of "apocalyptic scenes" and only noticed a police car on site - the military was also not to be seen.
Hostile sentiment towards the media
A little further on, a completely clogged motorway could be seen with cars coming from a shopping center fully loaded. Similar images of the destruction could also be seen from the air from the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto. Journalists reported that there was a hostile atmosphere towards media representatives, and a journalist's camera was stolen. "This country is destroying itself," said the former Interior Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who comes from the province of KwaZulu-Natal surrounding Durban. "South Africa is at war with itself - it breaks my heart," he said.
The city of Durban has one of the most important ports on the continent - the N3 motorway from Durban to the industrial center around Johannesburg is one of the country's most important transport axes.
It is now closed indefinitely, given the many trucks that have been flared.
President Ramaphosa warned that vaccination campaigns against Covid-19, as well as food security, are at risk.
Zuma's incarceration was considered a milestone
Although Nelson Mandela's dream of a peaceful rainbow nation has been clouded time and again in the past by excesses of violence against Africans from other parts of the continent, a nightmare looms now. "Ramaphosa tells us that he no longer has control," said the spokesman for the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Vuyani Pemba, in a TV interview. The president is fighting on several fronts: on the one hand, he has to stop the galloping numbers of infections in what is now the third wave of corona infections, and on the other hand, he has to reform his African National Congress (ANC), which was increasingly stuck in the swamp of a clique of clients and favorites under the tenure of his predecessor Jacob Zuma . Zuma's imprisonment was therefore an important milestone for the young democracy.
In addition, the head of state urgently needs to create jobs. Because one of the toughest curfews in the world has exacerbated the pre-pandemic economic crisis in the Cape. Entire industries - for example in the tourism sector - groaned under restrictions. Many companies gave up. Those who persevered are now confronted with new worries: shop fittings destroyed, goods looted, no more money in the till. Numerous jobs are in danger of being lost. The military is now supposed to enforce security with the police - which in turn displeases the populist EFF politician Julius Malema. He announced protests by his supporters in the event of mobilization. dpa