LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | #UnrestSA: Readers respond to the violence

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Smoke rises from a Makro building set on fire during unrest in Umhlanga, north of Durban.
Smoke rises from a Makro building set on fire during unrest in Umhlanga, north of Durban.

Since former President Jacob Zuma was arrested last week for failing to appear before the Zondo commission, the country has been gripped by violence and looting which started in KwaZulu-Natal and then spread Gauteng. News24 readers have written in to give their thoughts and views and even detail some of their experiences. You can read their letters below. 

Failing leadership

I believe my feelings of anger, frustration and desperation is shared by most South Africans.  The sheer devastation of anarchy and violence that is sweeping through our beautiful country in the past few days, is something that will punch in the gut of the vast majority of South Africans who love our country and its people.

I am not someone who easily and openly criticize leaders, as I am all too aware of the challenges and responsibilities they carry on their shoulders. To lead in any capacity at this time, is a unique challenge that very few can handle.

Still, I also believe that one should not keep quiet and just accept the status quo if things are going south.  

It is in this context that I, as most others, anxiously awaited our President's address on Monday night. And oh, my word, what a disappointment he was.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s soft tone of voice, and even sighing from time to time, may be seen by some as a "leader staying calm".  I completely disagree. There is a huge difference between calmness and "soft spoken weakness".  In a despondent manner that showed defeat, he mentioned the lives lost and even named people personally that were tragically killed.  Nothing wrong with that. But never did we see any sign of clear assertiveness, anger towards the thugs and strong condemnation of the thieves and killers. Never did we see any assertiveness that gave us the feeling of "we will be okay, he’s got this."  

We saw someone who seemed like a puppet and a pushover.  A weak leader that is afraid.  Even when he called himself the "Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces", he sounded more like the therapist who would rather hold people’s hands and comfort them behind walls of safety. Mr President, this is not your role.  If you are the Commander, please step up and act like one.  I am imagining leaders in the past, like Winston Churchill, speaking in this way to his nation in a time of war.  And yes – this IS war.  Read the signs Mr President. Lead like a leader, not a medic. That is what your people need.  

What we want to hear, and see, is decisive strategies that gives us reassurance that specific properties, areas and critical resources will be protected.  None of this has happened yet.  We were hoping for decisions that includes restriction to movement, protection of property and fighting fire with fire. You were fast to shut the country down when Covid struck. Now, you did nothing.  Do not be surprised, Mr President, that the people are now taking the law into their own hands and taking up arms.  They feel unsafe and unprotected, and you, sir, should own that result. 

The President said a few times "This is not who we are".  Sorry Mr President. This is exactly who we are in South Africa. You cannot soft-soap it.  We failed. The world sees this a failure of South African democracy, because it is exactly that. It is us.  And shame on us. We should own it.  And We should fix it. And we expect you, Mr President, as the leader, to own it first, and then lift up your head, raise your voice, and lead us to fix it.  Unfortunately, we do not see you doing this. We have no leader.  Because you are not leading.

When leaders fail, people and nations fail.  We are failing.

- Dries Lombard, Western Cape

We are suffering

I’m tired. I’m a student in grade 12 getting ready to finish my matric year. There is so much going on. There is hardly any food supplies left and people are robbing everywhere. I watch my parents tear up as they put everything into working honestly and saving for me and my education, only to realise their things get burnt and stolen. This is unfair, it hurts me. I don’t know what to think anymore, I’m mentally exhausted. We barely sleep, eat and think anymore. This is not fair. This needs to end. Mr President. I know you are trying to help us, but we are suffering. 

- Anonymous

Rioters are hurting themselves

I think we are now facing the full consequences of the nine wasted years with the rioters being largely young adults with little opportunity to earn a living and hope for a future out of poverty.

Expose them to advertising aimed at those who do have an income and the result is discontent.

 Fuel the discontent with political emotion and this is the result. All supposedly to support the leaders who caused it in the first place and now being perpetuated by a strong criminal element.

 Now the rioters do even more harm to themselves in the long run...so sad.

- David Grant, Sandton

Still hope

As a nation, we are still devastated by the impact of the third wave, and now we need to spread these scarce resources to deal with the unrest.

Here are quick wins to ensure we restore our country:

·   We need to capacitate our country's intelligence services.

·   We need to ensure that all those involved in the Covid-scandal have their cases are prioritised and that all the money is recovered.

·   Police must take the necessary action as required by law against the those taking part in looting during the current unrest.

·   We need to accelerate the vaccination campaign so that businesses can start operating at 100% capacity.

·   There must be a concerted effort to reduce the unemployment.

There is still hope for a better South Africa. Let us all support the President in all his efforts to restore calm in our country.

- Nyaniso Qwesha, Western Cape

More financial security needed

It is sad we have reached this point. Certainly, this is making life much worse, unbearable, insecure with what appears a very bleak future.

In my view people need financial support to enable them to go ahead and provide for their families and themselves. Each and every citizen is in financial despair, but we need to start at the weakest point, being the elderly Sassa beneficiaries. As the daily the cost of living escalates, their grant remains unchanged. They should be top priority to receive financial backing in the form of lump sum. If the citizens are financially secure there certainly will be calm in the country. 

-  Mary Evdemon, Gauteng

Zuma assets should be frozen 

It is time for government to freeze and seize the Zuma clan's assets and use their wealth to pay for damages. Cyril Ramaphosa can also chip in. He is worth R 6 billion. He can contribute R 5 billion to the rebuilding of SA.  And use it all to rebuild South Africa and reimburse affected businesses and boost the suffering economy.

- S.Wadee, Johannesburg

Disgusted by the stealing and looting         

I don't think there's one ANC political delegate who can stand on the pavilion and say, "Here I am . I don't have corruption scandal." 

All if not most, are conflicted. Why is the government so soft to the thieves who are stealing and destroying our shops and businesses openly? Because the same ANC government has taught these people that it is right to steal but the name of political protests. These methods were used previously by blacks against apartheid government. Now ANC is getting the taste of its medicine. 

To those who steal, don’t you see that you are teaching your children your ways? Are you not ashamed of yourselves when bringing stolen goods to your family? I am really disgusted by all of you who broke into the shops and stole.

- Lesibana Moraka Tlhako Mahwelereng, Limpopo 

Prepare for our lives to change fundamentally

I have never in my life experienced what I have seen and heard in the past few days. On Friday evening my main concern was how would I get my family though the rest of the month on just R258. Now after what has happened and is still happening I cant even buy for my last R258 for reasons you already know. I’ve watched KwaZulu-Natal burn, shops looted, people dying and did not sleep in order to watch over my child. With every bang, every voice I hear in the distance, I froze.

After watching the president address us on Monday night, I realised how alone we truly are with no protection. In my opinion he has no back-bone at all to just allow his people to carry on and let his country and people suffer and burn. South Africa has no idea how much this is going to destroy our lives. Our families will starve, our animals will starve. We all thought our lives had changed dramatically with Covid-19, just watch how our lives are going to change now.

- Jolenne Keyser, KwaZulu-Natal

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