A hundred and sixty shopping centers, eleven warehouses, eight factories and more than a hundred liquor stores looted… After days of riots in Durban, residents of South Africa’s Kwazulu Natal province have been the most hit by the spiral of violence related to the imprisonment of former South African President, Jacob Zuma. At the moment, nobody knows when everything will be back to normal. Although the intervention of the South African military has restored peace in the country, this black week will mark the spirits of those who witnessed the riots.
In the midst of the disaster, inhabitants of Durban say that things were taken too lightly both by the African National Congress and the government. However, in the residential areas spared from looting, the inhabitants do not lower their guard. They remain mobilized to ensure the safety of their family.
On Friday the 16th July, the Mauritian high commission in Pretoria asked the Mauritian diaspora to exercise extreme caution and respect local regulations as advised by the government of South Africa. Whilst the honorary consul of Mauritius in Kwa Zulu Natal has since opened a communication channel for Mauritians to seek help in case they find themselves in danger.
It was in 1982 that a Mauritian lady set sail for South Africa. After a rich career in the textile industry there, she retired and settled in Johannesburg. But at the times of the riots, she was in her holiday home in Umhlanga situated on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal province. “Since the riots, we have had no fruits and vegetables. It was only when things got calmer during the weekend that we were able to go out to buy groceries,” she says. And added that supermarkets shelves were often empty and there was a shortage of milk and bread. “This was due to the destruction and the burning down of goods vehicles during the riots”, she relates. Even though it was not comfortable at all for her to be checked each time she was out of the house, she states it was reassuring to see the number of young men and women guarding their communities. “In their own way, they had taken things into their own hands. Everyone was helping each other after some people got wind that the riots could start again anytime, ” added the lady.
As for her experience of those difficult times, she says she finds it sad that hungry people have been used for political ends. And that subsequently, it caused an outburst of violence in Durban thus threatening the safety of its inhabitants. “I tried not to watch TV and stay calm to face of this situation which was really not easy to go through. But reality caught up with me when I went shopping and saw the damage caused by the riots,” she adds. And what she finds even more unfortunate is that the sea was contaminated after a chemical factory has been burned down during the riots. “Now we won’t even be able to dip our feet in the water. It’s really sad,” she continues. And concludes that what was also hard was the closing of pharmacies. For if anyone got sick, nobody would not know what to do.
As for her nephew, who is also a Mauritian living in South Africa since 1990, he confides that although he lives In Johannesburg, he was in constant contact with his relatives during the riots in KwaZulu-Natal. “Although things are calmer and the connection of the highways has been reestablished, one cannot forget the damage that the rioters have caused by the political influence followed by racism,” he said. And concludes that the economic and social crisis is deeper than that and he hopes that all this will not end in the great revolution some people have predicted for South Africa.