Social scientist Doctor Rama Naidu says racial tensions in KwaZulu-Natal amid the current wave of civil unrest pose a threat to the country’s democracy.
In recent days, there have been messages on social media that appear to be aimed at stoking racial tensions. Naidu says underlying differences between groups of people stem from post-apartheid political issues that have never been resolved in the province.
“It’s a very real threat on democracy. We saw this in 1993 with the ANC and IFP clashes which set off a civil war in this province and old memories come up for people about the fear factor of what would happen and of course we are seeing it right now in places like Phoenix in what started off as looting now spilled into people breaking into people’s houses. It manifests when the fear gets to people when they want to find some way that they can vent their anger so the first person they see of colour, they want to show their anger. So what do they do? They get the one person out of their car and beat them up, innocent or not, and that goes back into the community and before we know the racial tensions that have never really been resolved in this country resurface” says Doctor Rama Naidu.
Naidu says social media calls for racial retaliation are incredibly dangerous.
“Underneath it is the question of the haves and have-not’s and that gap is widening every single day. When you add the racial dimension to it, it takes on a really scary element, and social media is really fuelling this frenzy about them and us. So when people are scared, they do one of two things, they either flea or fight. This is not resolving the issue, this is only escalating what is a far bigger problem and if people are unable to control this, the price will be really heavy for this country, especially for KZN” added Doctor Rama Naidu.
A number of prominent leaders have also spoken against the destruction of the past few days.
Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa, Thabo Makgoba, is among them. He has called on people from all walks of life to join in in condemning the criminal behaviour.
Nearly 20 people have died and hundreds arrested, as widespread looting continues in Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng. Makgoba says most South Africans just want to live in peace.
“We know the vast majority of people in South Africa are good people at heart, but when people go to bed hungry, unemployed, dominated and marginalized, – the good in us can be overwhelmed if we see no end to our suffering and especially in times of instability when it seems all bets are off. So desperation takes over especially when people lose confidence in their political parties and perceive the police unable to protect their communities. But violence and looting are not the way to solve the problem. So those of us who are independent of politics and government, need to say loud and clear of course we have all the right to protest but without harming anyone else. We have to condemn the criminal behaviour which takes advantage of instability”, he says. Reporting by Taliesha Naidu and additional reporting Mercedes Besent
Update on looting and unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng