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Post - 2021-07-21

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Failed insurrection gives us an opportunity to reset

OPINION

WE HAVE lived through an insurrection and, irrespective how bad things are, it could have been a lot worse had our democratically elected government been toppled. The violence we saw was not a spontaneous uprising against the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma. Instead, we are told there was a group of people who planned the violence and looting that we saw. Part of their agenda was to sow divisions between Indians and Africans in KwaZulu-Natal. It was part of their wider plan to destabilise our province and our country. Now that we know we are being used, we should not do anything that would further fuel tensions between Indians and Africans or between any two communities for that matter. To do so would only serve the interests of those who masterminded the violence we experienced. Now that the situation appears more stable, we also need to put things into perspective. The violence was directly mainly at businesses and not people’s homes. Furthermore, the violence affected business people irrespective of race. In Gauteng, the Joburg CBD and Soweto were most affected. In KwaZulu-Natal, Indians make up a fair portion of the business class and, as a result, seem to have borne the brunt of the violence. But make no mistake, African, white and coloured businesses were also affected. The initial waves of looters might have been African. But, after a while, people of all race groups took advantage of the lawlessness. We must condemn them all. The militia that formed only did so because ordinary people realised the police could not protect them. They were alone and needed to save their lives and property. The vast majority acted within the confines of the law but a few did not. As a result, innocent people were killed. This was wrong and the perpetrators belong in jail. Our police management may not have broken the law but they failed to uphold it. We now need to rethink policing as well as who we employ to protect us. Our intelligence agencies failed to notify us of what was coming. Then, our men and women in blue lacked the adequate manpower, training and resources to deal with the situation. With their own lives under attack, it was taxi drivers, gangsters and drug lords that helped out. Rumour has it that in some areas the police had to turn to drug dealers for bullets when their magazines were empty. As for our politicians, the less said the better. For years they have been stealing. Their methods may have been more sophisticated, but it still comes down to looting. It took government leaders at national, provincial and local level days before they went into communities to calm things down. It took them so long because they knew they lacked the moral authority to lead. Despite the many failures, there is no need to run to the Indian government for protection, certainly not with the falsehoods some are articulating. We are South Africans and we must work with other South Africans to address the shortfalls in our country of birth. Admittedly, the future is uncertain. Emotions are still high and many are fearful. The trust between communities has been broken. People feel a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Some who have the means, have already left KZN. There are others who are thinking about leaving, either to other parts of the country or abroad. The police have lost legitimacy. The looters now know what needs to be done to render the cops useless. So, it is very likely that service delivery protests of the future will morph into looting frenzies. People have also lost confidence in the government. In fact, there are some in senior positions who need to be investigated for their role in the violence. What’s most worrying is the calibre of some we call our fellow citizens. There have been signs for a while that many in our society lack values, but just how bankrupt we have become was made clear in the last few days. Our education system, our religious leaders and even parents have failed to raise upright citizens. That won’t change any time soon because every looter has made stealing seem okay for their children. What’s more, in the last few days we legitimised the use of violence as a means to resolve conflict. Yet despite the challenges, there is hope. The failed insurrection means there is an opportunity to reset. To go back and build the society we had dreamed of in 1994 rather than what we have become. It is now also clear that the vast majority of South Africans want the same thing – a constitutional democracy where the rule of law reigns supreme. After all, the unrest only took grip in two of our nine provinces and only a small portion of our 60 million citizens were involved in the violence and looting. Ironically, the greatest threat our democracy may have faced, may just turn out to be the greatest catalyst for positive change. AAKASH BRAMDEO Editor

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