As South Africa descended into unadulterated chaos this week with looting and riots flaring up all across Gauteng and KZN, Limpopo province united and stood prepared for any rumoured up flaring of violence in small towns like Phalaborwa and Tzaneen.
Messages were circulated across various safety and security platforms warning looters to stay away as businesses, private citizens and security personnel took a stand against would be criminals and any intentions to jump on the bandwagon.
On Tuesday afternoon, 13th of July, a group of men arrived at Spar Kruger, however the Phalaborwa CPF were quick to the call and attended the scene, which ended in an argument before the group of men left. Thus, rumours that Spar Kruger was looted, were dismissed by the chairperson of the CPF, Anton Kellerman.
On Wednesday, 14th of July, businesses, and various shopping centers across parts of Mpumalanga were ransacked and word soon spread that these same looters would make their way to Hoedspruit, Phalaborwa and Tzaneen later that afternoon.
“SAPS intelligence has learnt that multitudes of Mpumalanga residents based in Mbombela will be transported to our town in a bid to loot and damage public and private property thus putting the lives of our people at risk and our economy which in the recent past managed to overcome the economic shutdown where communities were protesting for meaningful participation in the mining sector,” said a statement that was released by the Ba-Phalaborwa Mayor, Merriam Malatjie.
“We are therefore calling on our Community Policing Forums to engage our SAPS superiors in our local police stations to source details and be ready to defend and protect our town against any form of criminal elements or activities.”
Because of these rumours, many malls and businesses decided to take precautions and close their premises resulting in income losses. Hoedspruit residents could also not access the Acornhoek Mall as its gates were locked.
Prior to the news that looters from Mbombela were headed to Phalaborwa, Bulletin had asked at least nine community leaders from different communities in Phalaborwa on what they felt about the looting. In almost all instances the answer was quite monotonous, “we will defend our town, this is not Kwazulu-Natal”.
“We would be stupid to go and burn our malls or complexes because they are all we have. If you look, most people are those that are not educated and have nothing to lose should they be arrested, as for us in Phalaborwa, we have a lot to lose,” stated Jackson Mawila, a member of the Ba-Phalaborwa Community Forum. Anton Kellerman reiterated what Mawila said and mentioned that the CPF and police would do everything to protect the small town of Phalaborwa.
Moreover, SAPS were supported by the SANDF members and setup roadblocks at all entrances to town.
In Tzaneen all was quiet and no instances of looting were reported. Though leadership of the Greater Tzaneen Municipality were silent on the matter, Uwe Kroh, Tzaneen CPF Chairperson and all local security personnel were on standby conducting regular patrols and offering hourly updates on the situation. Dave Protter and his team were conducting security patrols through the area right through the night and SAPS were placed on standby. Roadblocks were noticed along the R71 and word was received from local taxi associations that they too would be ready to assist should any violence erupt.
At the time of going to print on Thursday afternoon (yesterday, the 15th of July), all was still quiet. For any updates on the situation, in the unlikely event that it should change, follow our Facebook page at Far North Bulletin.