Day 3 of my home town’s shut down by looting protesters as the total Solar Eclipse coincides with crisis
Wild times here U Community, since Tuesday night this week, the exact moment of the total Solar Eclipse, my little holiday town on the south coast of Africa was shut down by stone-throwing protesters for the second time in the past few months but this time it seems worse. It’s day two now and the N2 national highway that provides access to the town is completely blocked by protesters who place burning tires, rocks and debris across the highway. Traffic has to be rerouted but worse than that, the protest blockade effectively cuts off the access to the CBD from the suburbs where staff reside. As a result few people can make it to work and the shops and supermarkets have been forced to shut.
Solar Eclipse coincidence?
As I mentioned in my previous post earlier this week, the total solar eclipse is not very auspicious generally, even though it wasn’t visible here in Africa. Still like clockwork, the exact hour of the eclipse saw protesters gather on the highway on Tuesday night local time and block one of the three main arteries in the country to all traffic moving along the south coast of Africa between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, somewhere in the middle... just a mile or two from my home.
Shutdown in my home town – nothing new
In traditional South African style, protesters have been able to hijack the infrastructure of the country with burning tires, causing millions of ZAR currency worth of damage to the surface of the highway, which melts as the tires burn. Worse than that, they have blocked traffic into the town, in what is the height of the tourist holiday season here. With the town packed with tourists, the majority of supermarkets cannot open as staff are unable to get to work.
Yesterday protesters advanced on the municipal offices beside the highway with the aim of voicing their concerns to the government regarding poor service delivery. The offices all had to close, and councillors were escorted out of the buildings under police protection. Not only were the protesters unhappy, but now the rest of the citizens, all from the poorer sector of society, want to lay charges against the police themselves for failing to protect the town from the protests, which have since turned into arsonists, looting and burning buildings.
Risking your life daily
Protesters began their attack by throwing rocks at passing vehicles on the N2 highway and from there the situation just escalated. Protests then spread to another nearby village, with marching through the streets. The mob are angry because the municipal housing project is slow to provide homes and the unemployment rate is rising. Nothing like an idle mob, hungry and with no prospects for money, to spark like dry tinder into a blazing fire of anger and looting. And it’s happening right outside my doorstep, so to speak.
Informal landlords scamming the system
Another concern of the rioting residents is the fact that those who receive the government handouts of almost free housing, end up renting out those houses given to them, and continuing to live in tin shacks, just as they did before. Or conversely others move into new government subsidised homes and rent out their tin shacks. Furthermore the lack of suitable sports facilities seem to be another cause for concern among the locals who are now weaned on free government handouts, ever since the fall of Apartheid 25 years ago. The new ANC black majority government wanted to rectify the injustices of the past in true socialist style by giving free land and houses to the previously disadvantaged, but it has led to a culture of expectancy. And that culture is now throwing a tantrum because they are not getting enough free stuff any more.
From bad to worse
The knock on effects will ripple through the whole economy as tourism, the main source of income for the town, is negatively impacted, along with local business and trade of course, since staff can’t come to work and doors have to be shut. In this typical process of cutting off the nose to spite the face, even less jobs will be available as profits evaporate. This is the style here in South Africa, where protesting is allowed and where government service delivery is seen to be slow, with corruption being suspected as the cause of the slowdown. As a result disgruntled residents only know one way to get their concerns heard, and that is by violent protest and shutdown.
Government collapse at a local level
Statistics reveal (https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/24-municipalities-now-under-administration-20181118) that at least 24 municipalities in South Africa are bankrupt, and I think mine is one of them, despite being an exclusive tourist hotspot in the land. This is due to “financial mismanagement” which I presume means corruption and looting by politicians, along with the inability to collect revenue, spiralling debt to the national government which subsidises most of them, and also collapsing infrastructure due to dysfunctional councils. Out of the 257 municipalities in the country, 87 are considered “dysfunctional or distressed”. That’s one in three.
I awoke this particular morning to see that the protest is still ongoing, with staff unable to work for a second day. The police are stepping up resources on the ground. In the early house of this morning one municipal building was looted, ransacked and set alight. The municipality released the following statement:
" We want to put on record that we no longer view what has transpired these past two days as a protest for service delivery. The overwhelming public evidence is that this is rampant crime, accompanied by violence, looting, theft and the vandalism of public and private property. These actions are denounced in the strongest possible terms.”
Not only that but the attempt at a meeting of angry residents with councillors has come to an impasse because they can’t just fire the politicians that the mob want out. You have to vote for these moves. So it’s looking bad. It’s the third night of mob violence now, and it may get worse. This is what I live with all year round in sunny South Africa – the constant subtle threat of crime and violence at any moment of the day or night by poor, entitled, sometimes crazed on crystal meth criminals who think the government owes them a favor or that they are entitled to rob the middle class or rich because he is richer and “obviously” has more than them, regardless of the fact that he worked for it. Live here at your own risk.
Global eclipse after effects
And my little town on the tip of Africa is not the only one reeling during the solar eclipse occasion this week, as global internet apparently also has some trouble yesterday and military tension heats up between America, on its 4th of July anniversary, and the rest of the world. As I mentioned in my previous post on the total solar eclipse a few days ago, with the eclipse falling so close to the birthday of America, it does not bode well for the “Empire” for the rest of this year. Also since the eclipse passed directly over Argentina, I’m not surprised that they lost to Brazil, their arch rivals, in the Copa America soccer semi-finals this week. It was written in the skies.