Looting, vandalism: ‘I don’t know how I am going to survive,’ says Diepkloof street vendor

In Diepkloof Zone 3, the Soweto township where the former director general in the presidency, Reverend Frank Chikane, once lived, looters vandalised and stole from 34 shops in the Diepkloof Square shopping complex and ripped all bank ATMs out of the walls. 

The looting and violence that was associated with the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma last week for contempt after he failed to appear before the Zondo commission into state capture has spread in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. 

There have also been a few incidents in Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape.

Defence force troops have been sent to KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. On Tuesday, the justice, crime prevention and security cluster said there was no plan yet to announce a state of emergency.  

Jabulani Sibiya, the shaken manager of the Diepkloof Square centre, said the police had not prevented people from ransacking the centre. “If the police had come earlier, we could’ve avoided a lot of the damage we have experienced. They only came here in the afternoon, when the looters were done. Between 10am and 2pm, the criminals did as they wished with no police or army in sight.”

“The damage done here is worth millions. We will still do an assessment to determine the real value of what has been lost.” 

Sibiya said the complex employs more than 1 000 people and now those people would be left without jobs.

“In future, we will plan to build a relationship with the community of Diepkloof. I think if there was a sense of appreciation of this centre from the community, they could have protected us. I am just so shattered by this, honestly. I am broken by what happened today.”

He said they would repair the shopping centre, but this would take several months. “That’s if they don’t come and burn the place down. Because when the police leave, they might come to loot whatever that is left.”

Street vendors around the mall said they were “doomed” after witnessing the damage at the mall.

Elsie Mahlawule, who lives in Zone 4 in Diepkloof, said their lives would be more difficult after the shopping centre was ransacked. 

“The people employed in this complex were our customers and they supported us consistently. They bought their veggies from us after work. I really don’t know how I am going to survive after this,” she said.

“I am a mother of three kids, I have to pay rent and I am also supporting my siblings back home in Limpopo. My husband is also not employed at the moment, so this is all on my shoulders. I really don’t know how I am going to manage all of this.” 

On Tuesday evening, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints)  confirmed that 72 people have now died in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal since the start of the violence.

Alexandra township’s Alex FM also fell victim to the looting, with people damaging and stealing the station’s radio equipment. “Due to these unfortunate events, Alex FM will not be able to operate. This leads to the closing of the radio station for an indefinite period till further notice,” the company said in a statement.

In Gauteng, looting and vandalism has spread to Vosloorus, south of Johannesburg, and Mamelodi, Pretoria. Johannesburg’s city centre was hit on Monday. 

More than 1 200 people have been arrested in both provinces.
Earlier on Tuesday, Police Minister Bheki Cele encouraged people to continue working with the police. He said they had been in discussions with private security companies to work with them.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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