South Africans across Australia say they are shocked and heartbroken by violence that has erupted in their home country in recent days.
- South Africans in Australia say they are heartbroken and devastated by the violence back home, which has killed over 200 people
- The unrest began after former president Jacob Zuma began serving a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court
- Australian residents have laid the blame for the unrest on the ruling ANC party
More than 200 people have died, and 2,500 people have been arrested for unrest, including looting and vandalism, that began early this week, following the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.
Zuma is serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court for refusing to comply with a court order to testify at a state-backed inquiry investigating allegations of corruption during his presidency from 2009 to 2018.
Sydney-based former professional boxer and lawyer Lovemore N’dou said what was happening in South Africa was painful to watch.
“People should be standing together during this pandemic,” he said.
“This is a time when the country should be trying to revive the economy.
“The looting is not assisting at all. It is just destroying the economy further.
Byron Froneman has lived in Australia for five-and-a-half years and calls Mackay, North Queensland, home.
He grew up in Durban, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, where the recent outbreak of violence began.
“It’s devastating,” he said.
“With the international travel ban, we can’t go back there at all.
“You just watch your hometown being destroyed, your friends and family … and you don’t know what to do.
“There’s no food. All the trucks have been burnt. It’s quite intense.”
Mr Froneman said family and friends in the region were taking extra precautions to stay safe.
“They’ve just had to take it upon themselves to arm themselves and protect themselves, their family and their homes,” he said.
“It’s gone beyond protesting for the release of Zuma. It’s just now a free-for-all.
“The scale of it is unreal. You can’t comprehend it.”
Corruption blamed for violence
Mr N’dou, an aspiring politician, lays the blame for the turmoil at the feet of the ruling African National Congress party.
The ANC has 230 of 400 seats in the National Assembly, with the next largest party, the Democratic Alliance, holding 84 seats.
“It’s been inevitable since the ANC came into power, but mostly since Nelson Mandela stepped down from office,” Mr N’dou said.
“What is happening is the result of consequences of a nation being run by a party that is divided.
“This is a party that continues to promise people hope and optimism but fails to deliver.”
University of Queensland Associate Professor Eric Louw, a former member of the ANC, also says many of the country’s problems stem from division within the ruling party.
“Ever since the 1994 election, you’ve had what is called a one-party dominant democracy,” he said.
“The ANC is deeply divided. That is the real catastrophe and has been for a while.”
He said two factions had emerged within the party, one supporting President Cyril Ramaphosa, the other behind Zuma.
“Ramaphosa, when he came in as president … he said I’ve got to sort out corruption, and that is done by the Zuma faction,” Professor Louw said.
“Every important guy across the economy and government is one of Zuma’s guys.
“The minute Ramaphosa said I’m going to sort out corruption, because you’re destroying the country, all those guys … they’re going to fight back, and that’s exactly what you see now.
He said Mr Ramaphosa was also seen by some in his own party as moving too slowly on economic reform.
“So everybody’s cross with him now, because he hasn’t delivered,” he said.
Mr N’dou says he believes the only way forward is through the emergence of a major new political party.