OPINION | Simon Swanepoel: Here's to my newfound friendships forged in the unrest

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A suspected looter pulls a few items along the ground outside a vandalised mall in Vosloorus.
A suspected looter pulls a few items along the ground outside a vandalised mall in Vosloorus.

While it may look like all hope is lost, more of us aren't looting and standing against the unrest than those that are causing it, writes Simon Swanepoel.

After witnessing waves of violence and looting in surreal scenes last week, one has to wonder, 'Where to from here?' We were shaken to the core; our democracy tested like never before. How long was it going to last? Now that calm is restored, is it safe to assume we won't face something like this again? 

Communities and businesses are calculating the losses and assessing the way forward, as our big cities have been hit by another Moody's ratings downgrade to junk status. Lives and livelihoods lost and the promise of the future hanging in the balance.

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And even as we've watched President Cyril Ramaphosa rise to the occasion, there's no pretending anymore for those of us who are die-hard optimists; the government has failed abysmally in restructuring the economy and opening it up for investment and trade. It's quite clear that on this ship that is our country, corruption and the state's incapacity have hollowed out the wooden decks, ports, and starboards of our vessel and our politicians have no clear vision or direction to navigate us through this storm. But that doesn't mean we have no hope!

Rebuilding communities

While some of us have been wondering 'Where to from here', others have been reclaiming the looted goods and rebuilding their communities. While some of us have been overwhelmed and overcome by fears, seeking places to scale and hide or run, others have risen to the challenge, put on their courage, and stepped into the gap.

Many have taken up the role of policemen and security guards, patrolling their communities, while others have activated their networks to get food and aid to those who the breakdown in regional supply chains has impacted. 

The incredible irony is that while our politicians have been fighting over irrelevant squabbles, we, as ordinary South Africans, have been making a plan. And amid the unrest, South Africans have put their differences aside and found unlikely partners and newfound friends. 

This gives me great hope. Because South Africans did not allow our country to be destroyed. The vast majority of us, from different backgrounds and beliefs, have come together to say #NoLooting #Standtogether #LootingMustFall.

A good shaking needed

Sometimes individuals, families, communities, and countries need a good shaking to help them remember what's really important and rediscover what they hold in common. No one goes looking for a shaking, but we can refocus on what's important when it comes. 

READ | Saturday Profile: How taxi association Santaco became the unlikely heroes of #UnrestSA

In this shaking, I found the most unlikely friends: my former frenemy, the South African taxi driver. Last week I wrote a message on the Facebook page of the South African National Taxi Association (SANTACO). I hope my message will help you find your own newfound friends in the current crisis:

To my fellow South African Taxi Driver,

I have had a long history with you, there have been many angry moments, angry faces, profanity and misunderstandings. 

Today I applaud you!

Today you become my friend! 

Today you have earned my respect for eternity! 

From now on, I will smile at you when I drive past and not hoot. 

I will be understanding when you stop to drop off and pick up your passengers and give you a thumbs up, because you are moving our economy forward and giving those that can't afford private transport a shorter and faster option to get back and forth from home to work! 

Lastly thank you, thank you for standing up for our democracy, thank you for protecting us, thank you for standing united with our communities! 

You have my utmost respect and loyalty! 

We are now united as South Africans. Look out for me smiling at you, and giving you thumbs up on our roads! 

#NoLooting #Standtogether #LootingMustFall

While it may look like all hope is lost, more of us aren't looting and standing against the unrest than those that are causing it. The shaking that's happening can unite us like never before and separate the wheat from the chaff. Look for the silver linings in life; I promise you'll find them. 

- Simon Swanepoel is the CEO of RocketNet SA.

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