Siyamtanda Capa
3 minute read
14 Jul 2021

Pietermaritzburg’s inner city laid to waste

Siyamtanda Capa

Several of Pietermaritzburg’s shopping centres are in complete ruin.

Several of Pietermaritzburg’s shopping centres are in complete ruin.

Burnt tyres, rocks, empty boxes, shopping trolleys and litter lay strewn in the City’s streets, while the body of a man is rotting away at an entrance to Brookside Mall.

This is what has been left in Pietermaritzburg after days of unrest.

A cloud of smoke lay across Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday morning after more stores were looted and a shopping centre was set alight on Monday night.

The CBD has been completely trashed, businesses and large retailers are a shell of what they used to be, with broken windows and nothing left to sell.

Sporadic fires continue breaking out in parts of the City. Looters were still making their way to see what else they could find at Brookside Mall on Tuesday morning. Many left the mall empty-handed.

A group rummaged through shoes in the front of a shoe store, trying to match pairs of shoes. Some were frustrated when they did not manage to do so.

Not far from them, a man was covered in a red blanket — apparently dead since Monday. He was allegedly electrocuted when the looters tried to break into the mall.

“This man who died yesterday is still laying here ever since,” one woman said nonchalantly as she carried searching for whatever else she could take from the few items left in Brookside Mall.

on Tuesday evening the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) said the sporadic criminal acts had put strain on an over-stretched police workforce. The directorate said this meant IPID investigators were not able to attend to crime scenes or reach the bodies of those deceased in areas where the unrest has broken out.

The Brookside Mall was set alight on Monday morning after it was hit by looters. The Checkers store was left completely gutted in the blaze while the rest of the stores remained mostly intact.

When The Witness arrived at Southgate Shopping Centre to assess and document what had been lost, those who were looting chased the team away and wanted no evidence of their crime captured.

According to people who were present, the chaos started on Monday evening. Looting also continued well into the night at Campsdrift Park, which houses Makro and China Mall.

The area was still congested on Tuesday, with very little space to move.

Msunduzi mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla said he was reluctant to advise people to go back to work or go to town this week, “What is left for people to come to town to do?” asked Thebolla.

“What we need to do now is to see what we can do to recover what remains and defend the malls and businesses that have not been hit.

“We have to do this not just for the sake of businesses but for the sake of the people, because after this we will all face extreme hardship,” said Thebolla.

He said he was more concerned that people who were seen looting are people who were previously disadvantaged.

“These are the very same people who will feel the brunt of this for a very long time. “We will not recover from this in two days. People must try to stay at home … and stay safe,” said Thebolla.

He added that the past two days had been exhausting. “We haven’t been able to sleep.

“I am just exhausted. The past two days were just difficult,” said the mayor.