August 1 marks a month since Kimberley mayor Mangaliso Matika’s proposal for a R260 electricity tariff — and the civil unrest which followed.
Rather than die down with time, the protests have continued and show no signs of abating.
One resident — who agreed to speak to the Mail & Guardian under condition of anonymity — has been active in the looting and destruction of shops and property.
“We took all the cold drinks, coffees, sugars, and breads — and gave back to the community. We gave it to the kids in the community,” said *Tash.
Tash says the looting was motivated by a range of grievances, from a lack of food to frustration with the municipality. “It was chaotic,” she said, “But the decision thereafter was to give back to the communities that are more rural — like Greenpoint, Galeshewe, Roodepan, Colville.”
“I’m sitting in a shanty right now making scrambled eggs on a broken stove while he [Matika] is having boiled eggs prepared for him.”
Aside from the theft of food and drinks, Tash has also been active in the breaking of council windows, tire burning, and destruction of public property.
“We’re burning tires, yes. Not to cause damage to the other residents. But for the mayor and stuff to see how serious this really is,” she said. “We cannot back somebody who is not there to back us. All these empty promises, promise after promise after promise. The shanties are cold. They keep promising to speed up the process of housing. You end up living in a shanty for six to eight years with no electricity, never mind a house.”
Tash continued, saying that people who see herself and other looters as petty criminals don’t understand what it means to live without basic amenities.
“I would say those words are coming out of somebody living in an urban area, someone who isn’t waking up at three in the morning to take care of a child and a mother who stays up sick on a pot. It’s coming out of someone who has never had to face the struggle. I don’t want to be looked down upon as a criminal or a drug addict by someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. The truth hurts, people very seldom want to face the truth.”
Tash — who has lived in Kimberley for 17 years — said that the targeting of foreign shop owners was deliberate. “It’s hard for us to understand why we let foreigners into our country when we can’t find jobs. There is already so little job opportunity. This is the reason why all the foreign shops were targeted.”
In interviews with the M&G, shop workers and foreign shop owners described what how the looting impacted them and their families.
“There was plus minus R300 000 in stock,” said Elias Ali, a Bangladeshi migrant and shop owner in Galeshewe. “I don’t have any insurance.” Ali says he will try to replenish the stock but is not sure the family has the funds to do so.
“It was not a strike, it was just tsotsis,” said Jennifer Mqoma. She and her husband Milton were taken in by another Bangladeshi shop owner and given work. “I’m bleeding in my heart, because now I will stay hungry.”
Tash said she is doing this for her kids; that she fears a future in which they grow up in the same conditions she did.
“I want people to know that whatever has happened, might come across as harsh or damaged property, it’s being done for everybody, for the ANC to back down. Maybe if the ANC backs down, if the mayor stops going on lavish holidays… It’s not fair that because we live in townships we don’t have flushing water — much like people in urban areas, we have kids too. Do we have to face these circumstances forever? We don’t want to be promised change, we want to see change.”