Desis in the line of fire in South African riots

Desis in the line of fire in South African riots


Thousands of businesses owned by members of the Indian community have been looted and destroyed and an unknown number of Indian-origin people are said to have been killed in the rioting that has hit Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa.
The rioting began last Friday in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), two days after ex-president Jacob Zuma was jailed for contempt of court. Durban, where one million Indian-heritage South Africans live, has been witnessing widespread rioting with shops, businesses and warehouses looted and set alight.
More than 50,000 businesses have been destroyed or impacted in Durban, where many retail and technology businesses, motor dealerships, medical centres, pharmacies and supermarkets are run by the Indian community. Zanele Khomo, chief growth officer at Durban Chamber of Commerce, said: “In Durban, we’ve had 16 billion rand (South African currency) worth of stolen stock and damage to malls and retailers. More than third of this would be Indian businesses. About 50,000 informal traders are out of business and 129,000 jobs are at risk…”.
It was on Saturday when Indian-origin businessman Rohit (name changed), who runs a chain of retail technology businesses across KwaZulu-Natal, got phone calls about one of his stores having been targeted by looters. Later on Sunday and Monday, four other shops owned by him had been looted. He has suffered a loss of $2 million so far. “They invaded and looted in the thousands. The security could not stop them. People stole fridges and stoves, high-end TV sets and groceries. You could see blood all over the floor from where people were shot dead… It all happened in broad daylight and the police did nothing,” Rohit said.
Phoenix, where more than 100,000 people of Indian descent live and where Mahatma Gandhi founded his ashram, has seen looting transcend into racial violence between Indians and blacks. Dozens of deaths have taken place in street fights as vigilantes of Indian descent have armed themselves to defend their homes and shops from looters. “Lots of Indians died in the line of fire protecting their homes and businesses” Rohit said. “Blacks were also killed. It’s terrible for community relations. The army is in KZN now and we hope things will stabilise quickly,” he said. But Durban resident
Pralini Naidoo is optimistic. “We are all in this mess and navigating it as best we can. Communities across race groups are working together. There’s a great deal of heart and community here,” she said.





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