After days of harrowing riots and looting around South Africa, the light at the end of it was South Africans’ ability to pull together in an effort to rebuild the country. With 18 July marking the 12th anniversary of ‘Mandela Day,’ a day dedicated to devoting 67 minutes to community service, the timing couldn’t be more symbolic. Yet, in light of these scary and unprecedented times, we’ve seen what communities can do to enforce positive change in a country where division, inequality, and poverty still run rampant.
Communities mobilised their time and resources to protect and clean up the infrastructure during and after days of looting. Taxi drivers, unemployed youths, and community members rallied to safeguard properties, businesses, livelihoods, and lives during the chaos as the #NotInMyCommunity movement started gaining traction on social media. In many areas, taxi drivers, business owners, neighbourhood watch, and community members lined the streets around malls and shopping centres in a bid to thwart potential looters.
More than 24 000 people joined the RebuildSA Facebook group, offering to contribute financially to rebuild the country. Companies in the construction, building, transport, and even psychology sectors have volunteered their services for free in some parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal as efforts to clean up looted malls, shopping centres, and businesses continue. And talks of corporates setting up funding to help companies get back on their feet are underway.
Banding together during times of crisis
ANEW Hotels & Resorts, which has properties in KwaZulu-Natal that were under threat, has highlighted the huge role community members played during this time of crisis.
Says CEO Clinton Armour, “While malls and shopping centres were the primary targets during these riots, many other businesses were also affected, and we had to band together to protect buildings from being destroyed in the process. With operation clean-up in full swing, many roads have been cleared of trash and debris by community members, who kept warm during night patrols by huddling around fires and sipping donated coffees. Communities remain on high alert for potential flare-ups, but there seems to be a semblance of calm thanks to the hard work and dedication of community members and law enforcement.”
Sadira Nayager, General Manager at ANEW Hotel Hluhluwe adds to this, stating that the establishment managed to make it through all the unrest in KZN untouched largely due to the community standing together day and night, ensuring businesses and residents were protected. “We would like to thank Alpha Security, SAPS, Hluhluwe farmers, and the local community members for their efforts in protecting our hotel.”
Businesses have also jumped on board to help in the clean-up and post-looting efforts to rebuild the country. Adds General Manager of ANEW Hilton, Anthony Moskovitch, “While many locals, residents, and law enforcement protected our business during these scary times, we assisted with tables and chairs to man vehicle check-points in the area. We also provided bottomless coffee, sandwiches, and bottled water to SAPS, CPF, and community members and cleaned up and replenished coffee stations throughout the night. We also offered complimentary venue hire for meetings with the Hilton/Sweetwater leaders, while some of our staff members assisted with patrols in the area.”
Armour notes that this is further proof that every person can make a difference, no matter how small. “It’s really heart-warming to see local communities taking a stand to look after one another and protect local businesses amid this type of crisis. This proves that when South Africans come together, we are a force of nature and able to strengthen communities.”
“To all the good people who helped protect our business and others in the area to keep job security and safeguard livelihoods, and those who continue to clean up and help rebuild South Africa, we would like to extend our deepest gratitude. We applaud you,” he concludes.