July unrest hearings: Soweto community leader appeals for concrete outcomes

South Africa

Johannesburg – A Soweto community leader wants the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to come up with concrete recommendations that will prevent a repeat of the anarchy that broke out in July last year in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng that left over 300 people dead.

Earlier this week Police Minister Bheki Cele told hearings into the unrest that he was given intelligence reports warning the violence would break out five months following the chaos.

Soweto community representative Themba Makhubela said unemployment was so rife in the township that it was hard to tell the difference between a weekday and the weekend.

Makhubela also testified that his community had been deprived of adequate policing with vehicles and staff shortages that contributed to the security lapse during the period of unrest.

“We are not surprised by the coordinated response on that fateful day from police. On that day of the unrest, our police were overwhelmed and outnumbered by numerous incidents of looting.”

He added that they were shocked when authorities stormed homes to reclaim suspected looted items like liquor and perishable goods, including half-used bags of mealie meal and bottles of cooking oil when homeowners could not produce receipts.

“After that, police disposed of or burned that food. It was immoral in the eyes of Africans. How do you dispose of fresh food while we have millions of people that go to bed on an empty stomach.”

The hearings continue next week.

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