The Jeena Wholesale Centre, just outside the town of Umlazi, south of Durban, remains the blackened skeleton of a burnt-out building, a grim symbol of the July riots that took place in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and some parts of Gauteng exactly two years ago.
Read more at The Daily Maverick: No shops, no jobs – KZN malls and street vendors alike are still struggling to recover from the looting of the chaos
While many towns and cities have rebuilt and renovated places looted or set on fire during the violence that President Cyril Ramaphosa has described as an “insurrection” perpetrated around “ethnic mobilization,” this place still stands, as a reminder to all and sundry. about what happened during the week-long mayhem that killed more than 350 people and led to the closure of shops and factories, with total cost to the economy It is said to be upwards of R50 billion.
Political allies of former President Jacob Zuma have stirred up chaos and anarchy, in reaction to his imprisonment in contempt of court.
According to Statistics South Africa, the July 2021 riots led to huge job losses as it halted the chain of economic growth for four quarters, with GDP contracting by 1.5% in the third quarter. She said the riots were the most expensive in post-apartheid South Africa.
The burning of 16 trucks in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo in the past few days has heightened fears of a repeat of that dark period and reinforced the sense that the country is still grappling with deep political and economic challenges.
Read more at The Daily Maverick: Authorities are on high alert after burning trucks to coincide with the anniversary of the riots in 2021
Still calculating the cost
Jeena Wholesale and the surrounding wholesaling was a hive of activity before the riots, with thousands of shoppers popping in and buying anything from groceries, bedding, clothes and even livestock.
Balungile Ngcobo (51) is a longtime hawker outside the Jeena Wholesale Centre.
She sells the fruits and vegetables with which she feeds six members of her family, including her grandchildren. She says life and work are no longer the same after the riots.
“People who came to buy groceries passed by and bought from us. There were also people who came to buy goats and once [were] They did buy things from us. Now there are few people passing by here. If it continues like this, I’ll have to stop and stay home by myself.”
The situation is bad, Ngkubo said, because they don’t make enough money to be able to pay the eThekwini municipality 1,200 rand rent every three months for their stalls.
We recently spoke to the authorities about giving us a deferral of rent as we don’t make any money here. The July riots were the death knell for many of us because many of our fellow hawkers, people who have been doing business here for decades, have had to close. She said that the owners of this center have not yet said whether they will reopen it or not.
When Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal succumbed to six days of violence in July 2021, Phoenix saw a strange phenomenon.
Phoenix has a predominantly Indian population and is located about 25 km northwest of Durban. Here, Africans—even those who were native to Phoenix—were reportedly targeted, attacked, and killed, allegedly by vigilante groups formed in the name of “protecting the community” from marauders. Residents took up arms such as pangas, baseball bats, pistols, and automatic rifles, forming vigilante groups and manned improvised roadblocks.
Between 12 and 15 July, vigilante violence claimed the lives of 36 people, 33 of whom were of African descent and three of Indian origin.
Some have called these incidents the Phoenix Massacre. For the victims of this violence and their families, the memory brings nothing but pain and memories of the loved ones who were brutally murdered.
They say they were let down by the government and the police, as they were unable to hold the perpetrators of this violence to account.
point to The case of Mondali Majola who was murdered in Phoenix During the July Troubles. An autopsy revealed that he died of a gunshot wound to the face and stab wounds to his thigh.
The three men arrested for the murder, brothers Dylan, Ned Govender and Jitendra Jaikison, were acquitted of the murder charge on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Zebwele Matihopo, a peace organizer and survivor of the Phoenix attacks, said she was forced to take a friend to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital when she was attacked by Indian security groups. Her friend was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital after being pulled from one improvised checkpoint to another. She had to be escorted out of Phoenix by the police.
Matiobo said the victims and their families were also outraged by the lack of justice and punishment for the perpetrators.
“It is difficult for the victims to find a solution. It is difficult for the victims and their families to forgive because no one in the Phoenix community has come forward and apologized,” she said.
Her sentiments were echoed by Mxolisi Minnie, another Peace Committee member and Phoenix resident who witnessed some of these incidents first-hand.
“We feel we have all been let down by our government, the police and eThekwini municipal officials. They promised us swift justice but so far no one has been convicted of killing our people. People want justice because so many people have been killed for being black. None of these people were killed looting and robbing people’s homes or shops. Most of them were killed while they were walking or driving on the road. “The people they killed are walking free, and no one has been held accountable for the murders,” Minnie said.
Many of those who lost their jobs in the aftermath of the July riots remain without work.
Bafana Shoesi, a 33-year-old from the Bottlebrush slum settlement in Chatsworth, said the clothing stores he used to work at in Ridge Shopping Centre, had closed and all staff had been laid off.
“This period brings me bad memories. I used to work but now I’m not, struggling to feed and educate my two children. It’s very painful for me because it makes me feel unfit. DM