In the aftermath of the widespread looting of shops and businesses that took place across many parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in July, there has been a flurry of insightful debates about the importance of developing low-income and unemployment-afflicted townships.
For over a week in July, South Africans were glued to their TV screens, watching thousands of people ransacking and pillaging shopping malls and small businesses in an orgy of violent unrest the country has not seen since the early 1990s.
After the dust had settled, more than 300 people had lost their lives while R50bn worth of damage had been unleashed on property and infrastructure in what President Cyril Ramaphosa described as a “failed insurrection”.
During the pandemonium, thousands of township-based shops and businesses took a huge financial knock, compelling the government to whip out R38.9bn to help affected businesses to reopen and rebuild their operations.
The riots will forever be etched in our memories. The riots reminded us of the re-enacted scenes on the History Channel of Barbarians pillaging Rome after defeating Roman legions on the battlefield. Who can forget the video that went viral of a looter who triumphantly ate a stolen cake inside a Shoprite store, with no care in the world of being arrested by the police for his crime?
The unrest sent shockwaves reverberating across the country, prompting several influential organisations and institutions to consider ongoing neglect of townships, home to about 60% of the South African population.
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