Taxi drivers, residents and agriculture MEC Mandla Msibi slept at Emoyeni Mall in Pienaar to protect it from looters. Picture: MANDLA KHOZA
Taxi drivers, residents and agriculture MEC Mandla Msibi slept at Emoyeni Mall in Pienaar to protect it from looters. Picture: MANDLA KHOZA

Communities across the country have put their lives at risk to protect property and possessions from people looking to exploit the unrest and lawlessness.

From taxi drivers opting not to sleep at home to unemployed youths armed with whistles and sjamboks, a #NotInMyCommunity movement is gaining momentum as widespread violence hit KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The Sowetan on Tuesday visited Eldorado Park as residents and business owners there united to prevent the looting from spreading to their community.

Riaz Alli, who runs a business in the area, has been at the forefront of a team set up to protect infrastructure by forming a human shield around properties.

“We organised a group of community members to protect the Eldos central business district,” Alli said. “There were about 150 members from the community, including people who are employed at some of these businesses, who came out at night to protect shops,” he said.

There were attempts to loot shops by youngsters in the area but they were thwarted.

Vinesh Moodley, one of the patrollers in the area who was standing guard at the entrance of Shoprite in Extension 5, said he was struck on the head with a rock when looters tried to make their way into the shop premises.

“It was bad. There was about 100 of them, but we managed to protect these premises,” Moodley said.

Aerial footage showed mobs ransacking and setting ablaze shopping malls and buildings in cities across SA on July 13 2021.

In several parts of Mpumalanga, taxi drivers, owners and community members thwarted several riots apparently aimed at looting shopping centres.

Mpumalanga MEC for agriculture, rural development and land affairs, Mandla Msibi, led community members in standing guard and spending the night at the Emoyeni Mall at the Pienaar township outside White River.

“We slept here to defend the mall ... if we allow this mall to burn that means we must go back to town at Riverside and look for jobs and shop there,” Msibi said.

In Hazyview, taxi drivers and owners lined up their vehicles around the mall on Monday evening and Tuesday morning. 

“We have no choice but to protect this mall which is the source of our income. If this mall is vandalised, looted and closed we will not have people to ferry because people will be unemployed, unable to shop or work,” said taxi owner Mbongeni Tsabetse. 

Some residents of Matsulu outside Mbombela managed to stop attempts to raze their mall by looters this week.

Community member Nhlanhla Mkhabela said they spent the night on guard after some of the stores had been attacked.

“They [the rioters] outsmarted us at first, but we managed to stop them before they could burn the complex, though they looted other shops,” said Mkhabela. 

In Schoemansdal, also in Mpumalanga, taxi owners and drivers joined some community members to prevent the looting of the local plaza.

In Limpopo, residents, businesspeople and taxi associations joined forces to prevent looting and vandalising of shopping centres.

Residents of Seshego, Polokwane, in collaboration with local taxi associations and the Polokwane CBD Business Forum, launched patrol teams on Tuesday.

Vincent Kunutu, the chair of the Seshego Community Policing Forum, said they started patrolling the area on Monday after receiving reports of planned looting.

“We are not going to allow criminals to destroy malls and anything that people worked hard for,” he said.

Solly Ledwaba, who chairs the Polokwane and Seshego Taxi Association, said: “We are not going to allow anyone to hold us at ransom by making our route and commuters ungovernable, because our business will collapse. We have been patrolling all along, but now we have intensified our efforts.”

Unemployed youth in Soshanguve, armed with whistles and sjamboks, have also started a patrol club to alert police and thwart looters.

Siphoesihle Dubazana, 27, said that after recruiting members through social media platforms they began patrolling the Bathong Plaza and Soshanguve Plaza in groups, especially at night.

Starting with eight members, they started patrols on Monday evening and hope to be joined by other like-minded youth in the area. They call their operation a #NoToLooting Movement.

“We patrol in the evening and in the early hours of the morning and if we find any person trying to loot, we will call the police to arrest them,” Dubazana said.

Ulundi’s municipal leadership in KZN, including its mayor Wilson Ntshangase, joined the police in helping fend off looters from the CBD of the IFP-controlled local municipality on Monday and Tuesday.

Meanwhile, taxi operators affiliated to the Randburg United Local and Long Distance Taxi Association took matters into their own hands.

About 60 drivers, queue marshals, executive members and residents hunted down those suspected of looting in Diepsloot, confiscated stolen items and returned them to their owners.

Freddy Tshigabe, PRO for the association, said: “They looted Bambanani Mall, and we would not have any of that. When they do something like this, it affects not only our communities, but it affects us as well because people lose their jobs and in turn, we lose customers. We would not wait for government to act.”

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