OPINION | In 4 days, looters have condemned our mothers and sisters to a life of hardship

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A police officer and civilian woman outside Shoprite in the Durban CBD on July 12, 2021 amid civil unrest and looting following the 'Free Jacob Zuma' protests. Photo by Gallo Images/ Darren Stewart
A police officer and civilian woman outside Shoprite in the Durban CBD on July 12, 2021 amid civil unrest and looting following the 'Free Jacob Zuma' protests. Photo by Gallo Images/ Darren Stewart

It's a sad time for our mothers and sisters in the retail industry who will wake up jobless and no longer able to feed their families after their workplaces went up in smoke thanks to uncontrollable looters and riots over the last few days.

We simply can't let people, especially women, continue to work so hard to regain some of the dignity apartheid ruthlessly stripped them off, only to watch their efforts being destroyed at the hands of looters.

Consider this for a second: Who do you see at the tills when you buy your monthly groceries or buy goods at Pick n Pay, Checkers, Makro, Foschini, McDonald's… and most stores in this country? Women - our mothers and sisters - who raise and feed their families with the money they make there.

It may not be much, but some of this country's academics and professionals have been clothed and put through school from this pittance. For years, these women have managed to run their families and maintain some level of independence and dignity with the use of their wages from retail jobs.

But today, many of them will wake up with no jobs. Some have lost family members or children amid the brazen and rampant criminality – yet, they and their children still have to survive somehow.

And for what?

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The looting of the last few days will take years to fix, and even then, many of the women (and men) who lost their jobs may never be employed again.

Their children will be forced to drop out of school or tertiary institutions. They will go to bed hungry and be forced to wear worn-out clothing and shoes that remind them, every day, that they are not like other children.

As a result, they may turn to crime and addiction to cope with their dire situations. Girls may decide to date sugar daddies, hoping for some form of financial support or protection from harsh living conditions at home. They will lose their self-worth and succumb to a life of hopelessness.

These four days have started a cycle of hardship and poverty that some families will never be able to escape, at least not any time soon. Granted, some will overcome these conditions to make a good life for themselves. However, most won't.

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In one weekend, mindless looting has condemned an entire generation to a life of poverty, hopelessness and absolute misery. 

The unrest of the last few days is disturbing, at best. At worst, it's an indication that we live in such a rotten society that the destruction of property and even the prospect of death isn't enough to deter lawlessness.

It's truly a time of reflection and a time to ask ourselves a pivotal question: What are we doing to stop the violence?

There's a famous quote that we all know of, and I can't think of a time more poignant than now for us to think about it seriously:

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing."

Can we afford to do nothing when our country is going up in flames, when our mothers and sisters are losing the little hope and income they had in their lives to senseless violence?

At some point, being passive spectators in our own country stops being enough. We need to participate actively in protecting the rule of law. It starts with identifying and reporting people who engage in looting and those who incite it, so they can be brought to book. 

However, if you have safety concerns, you can still do something, no matter how small.

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There have been some comments on social media of people and organisations speaking out against this madness, and if you do nothing else, please retweet or share messages of hope and pro-peace.

Condemn looting on your WhatsApp status or Facebook page, and if you remind one person that we are a people of ubuntu and humility, they will remind another. Soon enough, the message will domino enough to make a real difference.

Remember, the looting started because a message was spread, violence was incited with words.

And the very words that were weaponised against peace and the rule of law can be used to inspire hope and help us recover what's been lost, return our country to some level of sanity, and save the future generation from an apartheid-esque existence while living in a democratic country.

How do you think we can solve the current unrest in the country? Have you been affected? Tell us here. 

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