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My sense of fear is over, for now


It’s a beautiful Durban winter morning: no wind; just about cold enough for jeans and a sweatshirt. 

The sky is brilliant; crystal clear. 

There’s none of the plumes of smoke that blocked out the Bluff on the other side of the harbour this time last week; no hovering helicopter; no thump of stun grenades, shotgun rounds.

No stench of burning.

It’s as if the two days of looting; the sleepless nights; the bonfires on the street corner never happened.

Around here, at least.

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I’ve got over the panic — and fear — that gripped this time last week. 

It was touch and go for a while, but somehow, that sense of dread, of impending apocalypse, has lifted, disappeared along with the street patrollers. 

Thankfully, this part of Glenwood didn’t have too many Grensvegter types manning checkpoints — the bulk of the residents are black — so that side of things was over here by the weekend.

Even my rage at the Showerheads for causing the deaths of more than 300 people while trying to burn the country down to force the state to release former president Jacob Zuma; at the ANC for allowing its internal power struggles to destroy the country, has passed.

For now.

Thankfully, my sense of humour has returned. 

It’s now possible to see the funny side of a woman my age walking up the hill from Davenport Centre with a stolen prosthetic leg last Monday afternoon. I wonder what motivated the woman with the prosthesis in her hand?

Did she set off in the morning in search of a plastic left leg for somebody at home? 

Was it ordered by a neighbour, by somebody she met on her way?

Or did she simply take the leg because it was there, because she could; did she act out of fear of missing out on getting something for free?


It’s no real surprise President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet — or the leadership of the governing party — can’t agree as to the nature and causes of what went down last week

To do so would be to take responsibility for their words; their actions.

Perhaps last week’s mayhem was a half assed coup d’état. 

Perhaps it was only a failed sparkling insurrection. 

Perhaps it was a fundraising campaign for Duduzane Zuma’s campaign for the ANC presidency next year

Whatever it was, it’s over.

For now.

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I’m wondering who ended up drinking the R650 000 bottle of 50-year-old Glenfiddich that was looted from Makro at Springfield Park last Monday.

Did the bottle end up in the hands of some radical economic transformation heavyweight, looted by remote control to be sipped at leisure ? 

Or was it slugged down by one of the footsoldiers, guzzled on the run while dodging rubber bullets, or at home, with dry lemon, to celebrate a busy day’s shopping?

Perhaps the 50-year-old is still out there, waiting to be sold to some bent chief executive type, once the heat is off?


To be honest, I’d rather it was drunk by an ordinary punter, or smashed in the melee, rather than ending up in the hands of some lahnee with no morals.

Looting is a weird thing.

Just before I left Belfast when I was a kid, there was a whole lot of looting and burning of shops. The part of the city we lived in was contested, between East Belfast and the Short Strand, so when things kicked off, they started around there.

The pub was the first thing to be cleaned out.

Once it was looted, it was burned.

The pawn shop was next.

Then the rest of the shops.

My cousin Billy, who was a teenager at the time, was one of the looters. 

So were most of the people in the neighbourhood. 

Billy was acting like Father Christmas, dishing out presents to his younger cousins, booze to the adults, when he turned up in a pair of brand new Doc Martens at the farm house where the rest of the family had taken cover.

I got a whole load of model aeroplanes, paints and glue from the toy shop they hit.

My old man, Gerald, made me throw the lot away.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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