A Loot’ a Continua
By Tunicia Phillips
As I sat in my garden, watching a group of people loot yet another convenience store in Eldorado Park last night, I realised what an unfortunate irony had begun to plague the demonstrations.
At the heart of these demonstrations is a disgruntled local business forum who have lobbied community members to take a stand against the awarding of tenders to so many unknown and outside contractors by the government. The rationale is simple: locally awarded maintenance contracts have a better chance of employing local people. In principle, the events of Monday was a protest against an attack on the potential for a locally viable township economy. Unfortunately, there’s always the element of criminality that tends to ruin a just cause. This was highlighted in the Fees Must Fall protests, those of Vuwani in Limpopo and Bekkersdaal on the Westrand. But, when I watched a young man make away with only diapers from another looted store in Freedom Park earlier that day, it became more of an illustration of desperation.
The irony, however, is that the protestors were damaging property and looting some locally owned businesses. Of course, there’s the housing issue many protestors raised, and so some may have been completely withdrawn from the source of the planned shutdown. Eldorado Park’s housing development plans have for years been delayed due to incomplete environmental impact assessment studies. Those are basically meant to conclude whether a portion of land is fit for housing development.
It’s interesting that nearby Slovo Park would agree to join in on the shutdown, that area was specifically mentioned by Mayor Herman Mashaba during his first State of the City address last week. Mashaba applauded the EFF coalition for spearheading a resolution to meet the requirements of a High Court order that ordered the city to develop the informal settlement. The illegal wiring in Slovo Park runs across the nearby roads forming a mesh of live wires. It is surreal that children survive playing around such a large and exposed network of live illegal electricity wires.
Every person found walking the streets was intimidated and commanded to get themselves, and their children indoors. An eerie feel of Marshall law had kicked in, and sporadic shouting foiled any chance of silence.
By 9 pm police were still firing rubber bullets metres away from our doorstep, and I concluded that I should probably offer a safe haven for journalists who will arrive in the morning with no safe place to park (or hide). It was only then that I realised how easily I slept through the chaos outside our home this morning. Am I a better journalist because I have been desensitised to the sound of violence? Am I less shaken by the sound of stun grenades and gunshots? The answer is yes.
The sound of gunshots at night have become akin to the inevitable sound of birds in the morning in Eldorado Park, and violent murder scenes are no strange playgrounds to me.
This is why I am writing this piece, while watching ten-year old’s loot a locally owned business store, with no regard for the police who will eventually disperse them by force. The chances are he or she has seen and felt worse.
And so it goes: A Loot’ a continua or A luta continua?