Zuma Unrest: Chaos reigns in Durban as looters target warehouses

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  • Looting continues without respite in Durban as mobs target industrial warehouses.
  • The police and army are nowhere to be seen as a R250 million TV factory in the city was cleaned out and then gutted.
  • The situation remains tense and with police resources stretched, residents have taken up arms.

Chaos and looting reigns in Durban and its surrounding areas after rioters breached the perimeter of the 60 000m2 Massmart distribution centre in Riverhorse Valley on Monday night.

Despite the announcement that South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers would be deployed in the city – to relieve a flagging police contingent – wanton theft continued and people streamed in and out of the warehouse on Tuesday morning.

Rob Thomson, the KwaZulu-Natal director of property company Zenprop, confirmed that three of its properties in Durban had been looted on Monday night. The Massmart distribution centre holds stock for, among others, Game stores.

"It is still being looted now," Thomson said on Tuesday morning.

"The visuals we got last night and this morning are of roads completely gridlocked. People are filling cars with everything, from fridges to camping equipment. There is no army in sight. I am not sure of the damage to that building. It is worth R750 million," he said.

"Another of our buildings, the LG television production facility in Cornubia up the road, was torched and gutted yesterday. I have seen images of people walking away from that site with trolleys loaded with TVs. That property alone is worth R250 million. This is very disturbing."

The third property that was looted is a food cold storage facility occupied by Vector Logistics in Cornubia. Looters also struck Pietermaritzburg overnight and a  facility which houses the China Mall in the provincial capital was razed.

City on tenterhooks 

In the Durban CBD, police officials remain on high alert after they were unable to prevent days of violence and theft.

On the ground, shops were shuttered, and debris littered the streets. Since the weekend, looters in their hundreds have beset the city.

A veteran city policeman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said looting continued throughout the night and Tuesday morning.

"I worked 20 hours yesterday and I have been back since 06:00 today," the policeman said.

"Town is broken. I have never seen anything like this. It is pure criminality. People are breaking into shops now, in broad daylight. Nobody should be on the streets. I don't see any sign of the army yet."

eThekwini Metro Police spokesman Parboo Sewpersad said the situation remained fraught and the police were trying to restore calm. The City announced that the public transport service would remain suspended until further notice. 

"Every road has been hit. Town is dead quiet except for people looking to steal. I would say about 90% of the shops have been affected, even those with roller shutter doors down shop fronts. A few shopkeepers are around, trying to recover their goods. Shops are open and have been vandalised. There is no security. It seems like anything that can be looted has been looted.”

Residents take up arms

City residents have also been gripped by fear, forming militias who patrol neighbourhoods. They are armed with an array of weapons, ready to protect their homes.

An elderly man was shot and wounded at an ad hoc roadblock in Avondale, Durban, in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Emer-G-Med spokesman Kyle van Reenen said that the man was shot in the stomach after a vehicle – purportedly occupied by looters – tried to force its way through the blockade.

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