No rainbow, no gold: the Mandela rainbow myth: Monday July 12 made that clear

by Sep 13, 2021Amandla


No rainbow, no gold: the Mandela rainbow myth: Monday July 12 made that clear

David Hemson interviews “looter” Thabo Mutsaka* | Amandla 77 | August/September 2021

In front of the Cambridge liquor store people were smashing open the ATMs with hammers and anything they found to hand.

Thabo is a well educated youth, a university graduate deeply disappointed in the prospects for work and a better life in his small settlement. He lives in the Free State and has primary responsibility for his brother and sisters. He, and his friends, became impulsive participants in the looting.

Here is his story:

“I had to get my documents certified at the Post Office in town. Around 10am I was in the local mall when the security guards told me everything had to close down. Now.

I made my way home. But around 4 in the afternoon I saw people walking with bags and pick-up trucks piled with furniture and drink. We all saw and started to move.

At first, we took care; maybe the police were already on point. We certainly did not want to get arrested. It was a long walk to the mall. We were not the only people. Now there were large crowds.

It was no longer another boring day, but a busy and vibrant day! We started jogging slowly; cautious of any dangerous chaos or police van. Then fast.

Now we could see people with big bags of live animals, chicken and drink. Before we knew, we were inside a warehouse, looting. We were fortunate! Here were six packs of tinned food, cigarettes, and…. a pack of curtains. The atmosphere was kind of panicky; people suddenly rushed away thinking the police were coming. We joined the rush home but then saw large numbers still coming. And here we were thinking the mall had been emptied!

At home we divided our winnings equally. Others did not sleep and were still busy; the mall was looted the whole night. They were now busy with the Cambridge store. We were losing out! I was disappointed, angry, and heart broken. I grabbed my granny’s large sports bag and ran back towards the mall. The crowd was now thick; three times more than yesterday.

I squeezed into the Game store but found nothing but broken doors, shelves and a wet floor. It was really slippery. I fell and almost broke my leg! I then went to the second shop, the third shop, and then another. It was all the same; there was nothing left. I then turned to the Cambridge shop a street down from the mall.

On the way I saw people carrying boxes of juice and cold drinks from the butchery. Hey, I got lucky and looted 4 two litres of juice! I tried to shove them in my backpack but they were too heavy; if the police chased me I would be caught. I dropped two and took the remaining two.

I jumped back into the street on my way to a small complex next to the mall. Now there was shooting. A guy was firing warning shots in the air in front of a PEP cellphone store. His group had opened a cash safe inside and was stopping people from joining in; this was their job.

In front of the Cambridge liquor store people were smashing open the ATMs with hammers and anything they found to hand.

Then someone started running behind the mall with something hidden inside his jacket. Others were furiously running after him. At the back of the mall I found a group of guys forcing open a hole in the wall to get through to the Cambridge safe room.

I hung around thinking they might feel pity and give me a chance. But then another group of guys noticed and started joining us. Everyone flocked around us. The gang got scared and decided to leave and I left with them. I joined them in an open space down the street.

On our way home, the gang took turns to carry the bags. These bags of money were heavy, stuffed with a lot of coins. I volunteered to help them carry.

Back in our village the atmosphere changed; they gave me and the other two guys with me 17 bags of 20 cents and 50 cents coins.

“Now, get lost, right now, before we break your heads!

We dashed off. I was left with my guys and went home with a heavy heart …. and just R170 of coins in my pocket. No big deal.

Some 10 days later: The chain stores are now fixed and open but not the small shops. I’m hoping the shop workers get their jobs back. As for me I’m stuck as before.

None of us gained economically from the looting. No one managed to open a spaza shop with the looted goods. Our looting was driven by hunger, desperation and unemployment. Yes, small criminal activities were also involved.

Across my community we have experienced, qualified electricians, plumbers as well as registered security personnel who could have done a marvellous job securing, repairing and refurbishing the damages. I’m sad to say none of them was empowered.

The big corporates could have done this. The waiter and cashier jobs they boast of do not sustain a whole family and empower the whole community. We also have skills, qualifications, experience and knowledge. We just need opportunity.

Our people were crying for help from poverty and unemployment. The mall is opened but the small shops may never open again. We were warning government that we are human beings and need to be treated as such: we need housing, we need running water, and electricity. But most of all we need jobs!”

*For obvious reasons, Thabo Mutsaka is not his real name.
David Hemson is a socialist with a history of labour organising from the early 1970s; he was jailed by Mugabe for such work in 1985.
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