Mobile phone shop plundered by lootersMobile phone shop plundered by looters in Durban, South Africa

A wave of looters continues to swarm across the eastern half of South Africa leaving death and fear in its wake. A low police presence and a delayed response from the government has put the law in citizens’ own hands. Many families keep guns at home for protection but are only now putting them to proper use.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a speech on Sunday that he was concerned “that some of these acts of violence are based on ethnic mobilisation.” He condemned the looters and said that South Africa was a nation “committed to non-racialism and non-tribalism.”

“The Africans are sending warnings to all Indians that they are coming out to kill all Indians. Everyone is stopping to pray.”

EThekwini Mayor Councillor, Mxolisi Kaunda, quoted and condemned the orders the looters were giving: “Once you are done with the looting, go to Indian areas … and kill Indians. Go to White areas and kill White community, then burn their houses.”

Our source in Durban said, “The Africans are sending warnings to all Indians that they are coming out to kill all Indians. Everyone is stopping to pray.”

The Indian Government has expressed concern over the large population of Indian expats in South Africa. External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S Jaishankar spoke to his South African counterpart, Dr Naledi Pandor, tweeting, “Early restoration of normalcy and peace was the overriding priority” for both nations.

The government has deployed more than 1,200 troops in Guateng and KwaZulu-Natal, provinces in the eastern half of South Africa, to suppress the violence. It has has also increased gun license checks to make it more difficult for South Africans to buy guns and ammunition. Those who want to deter the looters from attacking then now fear for their lives.

The police have made over 1000 arrests but South Africans have said that the police are doing little to snuff the protests. One contact said, “The police won’t arrest them, saying they don’t have enough space.” This lack of agency has led many South Africans to believe that the police and government approve of the criminal activity. Looters have killed many innocent people and will face no penalty.

South Africa is a racially fragile nation with apartheid ending only 27 years ago. Perhaps this ethnically mobilised violence could tip the country into a civil war.

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