Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
16 Jul 2021
10:38 am

SA Council of Churches propose amnesty for looters

Thapelo Lekabe

The SACC says the amnesty period should be declared for a week or two as part of efforts aimed at nation building.

Looting at Mayfield Square in Daveyton on 13 July 2021. Police were extremely over-extended and arrested a large number of looters, but they simply couldn't cope with the sheer numbers. Picture: Neil McCartney

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) has called on the South African Police Service (Saps) to declare an amnesty period for citizens who took part in the looting of shopping malls and other stores, on condition that they return stolen goods to their nearest police stations.

The SACC’s general secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, has outlined the organisation’s proposals for a restoration drive after days of mass looting and destruction of property in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Mpumlwana said the amnesty period should be declared for a week or two as part of efforts aimed at nation building and addressing the country’s socio-economic problems.

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“The church is an agent for reconciliation and the restoration and recovery of the positive human spirit, akin to the African concept of ubuntu-botho. When one has participated in wrongdoing, one is to be encouraged to make amends and take on a new path; and that is a part of the person’s healing,” Mpumlwana said in a statement on Thursday.

“Churches wish to encourage people who have looted, to attempt to return things they stole, by delivering them at the nearest police stations. We do not expect a large-scale uptake of this, but we know that it is already in consideration in certain communities.”

117 cumulative deaths have been linked to the unrest that started last weekend in KwaZulu-Natal, with more than 2000 people arrested so far. Government also confirmed on Thursday that one of the 12 suspected instigators behind the public violence had been arrested.

Parts of Gauteng affected by the violence have been recovering from the unrest, with clean-up operations taking place. However, the situation remains volatile in KwaZulu-Natal, with reports of overnight looting and damage to infrastructure.

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Government deployed 5000 more South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members to assist police in their operations in the two provinces, bringing the number of boots on the ground to 10,000.

Job losses and economic recovery

The SACC said the mass looting, violence and destruction of property and infrastructure would result in thousands of jobs lost, that may never be recovered. The organisation called for an economic restoration fund that would assist entrepreneurs and businesses recover from the devastating impact of the riots.

“There are reports of roadside vendors selling goats and live chickens whose merchandise has also been looted. Where these can be verified, we believe there should be a way of assisting them back on their feet and continue to support the people whose livelihoods depend on this.”

Concerns over Covid-19 infections

The council also raised concerns over the unrest contributing to the number of Covid-19 infections as the country battles the third wave of the pandemic, largely driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

“As a result, more lives will likely join the current frightful toll of over 65,000 lost to the pandemic. As we have said before, we shudder to think of the toll of death that might result from the currently unprotected hordes of people, where the wrath of Covid-19 can kill both the economy and large numbers of people, leaving untold misery in many families.”

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