- Maponya Mall in Soweto has not been affected by unrest in Gauteng and residents are guarding it along with private security officials, the police and tha army.
- Residents braved the cold and slept outside it to stop looters from gaining access.
- According to the residents, the lootings are well orchestrated.
Pimville residents have taken a stand against violence and mass lootings in parts of Gauteng and have vowed to protect the only surviving shopping centre in the area – Maponya Mall.
News24 was at the mall on Wednesday and found that it was guarded by community members, police, private security companies and members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa also made an appearance and hailed the residents for their efforts.
Soweto Parliament commander, Nhlanhla Lux, told News24 that the residents’ efforts were not only about protecting the mall and jobs, but about protecting the heritage of the mall too.
The R650-million shopping centre was officially opened on September 2007 by former president Nelson Mandela.
It was the first shopping centre of its kind in Soweto and the first one that was blacked owned. The mall is named after local business icon Richard Maponya, who acquired the land on which the mall is built in 1979 on a 100-year lease, according to Gauteng history site, Gauteng.net.
Members of the SANDF at Maponya mall.
“Part of our responsibilities was to make sure that people, the community, come and defend the mall. It is the last mall that will be servicing millions of people in Soweto. So we will be very irresponsible community members if we don’t protect the mall,” Lux said.
Soweto – a crippling township
He added that it was important for the community to protect what was left of an already crippling township and said he was glad the community has heard and responded calls to protect the mall with the assistance of law enforcement agencies.
Without the presence of law enforcement officers, there won’t be enough fire power to match the looters, he said.
People buy bread from trucks who provide food as shops and mall are looted and closed for business in Soweto on Thursday.
Community members have been guarding the mall for the past four days and have already come under attack.
“The last four days, we have been shot at around twice a day. Being shot at is now normal, which is very scary.”
He added that they believed that someone was instigating the acts because there was a modus operandi.
“We have arrested some people who have confessed their operations and who have confessed many things we did not think we would get in such a short space of time, working on this operation.”
A lot of people were saying it’s a Zuma protest. It is not, because when we arrest these young people, most of them are under the age of 22.
Those who were arrested weren’t even aware of who and what Zuma was arrested for, making it clear that the unrest was “organised, high-precision crime activity” meant to debilitate communities, he added.
Speaking to the residents, Kodwa also agreed that the lootings seemed to be led by people who were “experienced in operations”.
He said the government was closely investigating reports that former agents were instigating the attacks. He said:
This campaign is not sporadic, it is not spontaneous there is somebody behind who is driving this operation.
Meanwhile, Gabatsoane Tlholoe, a Pimville resident who works at Maponya Mall, said: “I have a child in university. I have a son in primary [school]. If Maponya Mall is destroyed, how am I going to educate my kids? Am I saying the cycle of uneducated people must just continue? I say no. Nobody must come vandalise and loot Maponya Mall.”
She added that members of the community were already feeling the effects of the lootings and were unable to buy basic needs, such as electricity and bread.
As residents gathered, holding placards to urge people to “protect Maponya Mall”, a Sasko truck parked on the side of the road and sold bread to them.
Parts of the township have no economic operations.
Fuel stations, spaza shops and other services are not operating.