Under siege in Durban

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My mother tells me about a contact who lives near an informal settlement. She says that black and coloured people are exchanging fire.
...

It’s late afternoon when I hear distant bangs. My parents and my brother are in the lounge.

“Is that gunfire?” I ask.

They tell me that it has been going on for some time. After having seen looting on the news I had comforted myself by listening to music with my earphones on, which is why I hadn’t heard it before.

...
I wish I had kept the earphones on. I hear gunshots now as I write this at one in the morning. Occasionally there is a louder boom; a bit like thunder.
...

I wish I had kept the earphones on. I hear gunshots now as I write this at one in the morning. Occasionally there is a louder boom; a bit like thunder. When a car passes too slowly, when there are voices outside, when a dog barks too insistently, I look out of my window. I think I might be paranoid, but then I see the neighbours doing the same thing. No one is asleep. This is real.

Just two days before, I had been in Cape Town. I came to KZN to visit my family. We’ve been through a lot these past months and it seems cruel that a long-anticipated reunion has turned into an anxiety-inducing nightmare. We have just moved into a new house in Durban North, but there are still ties to previous residences.

My mother shows me footage of a crowd guarding the Greendale shopping centre. I used to walk there for ice cream in my high school days. I wish I could be there to help them keep watch during the night, but only because I don’t see weapons. I want no part of violent vigilantism.

One of my friends who lives outside of Pietermaritzburg tells me that her father and brother have left the house to help hold off protesters. She doesn’t think she will be able to sleep until they come back safely. I also hear that a cousin is stranded in the Drakensberg with his family. They can’t get back to Durban safely.

The peaceful chirping of crickets and fruit bats has replaced the gunfire for a while. I wonder (with some guilt) if I should have stayed in the Cape. I am afraid, and my mental health has taken considerable effort to maintain, but perhaps being away would be just as troubling, because I would worry about the people I left behind.

I think about taking stock of the food in our house. Our fridge is mostly empty and we need to make a plan for how to ration the food in the coming days.

The next morning things seem much calmer, but I am still spooked. The children playing next door scare me banging a piece of iron. It sounds like a gun. Innocent neighbours talking animatedly make me suspicious.

My father received a video of the looting’s aftermath in KwaDukuza. Whole shops are cleaned out on the main road. If we had been there in our old house we would have been in the middle of the chaos. Wealthier residents in shiny cars are pulling up to take their share as well. To me it looks as if the country’s poorest individuals will still be left with nothing.

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Wealthier residents in shiny cars are pulling up to take their share as well. To me it looks as if the country’s poorest individuals will still be left with nothing.
...

I observe a bakkie driving by with a new fridge and other items on the back. It is heading to the police station behind our house and there is a marked police vehicle following it. I think these might be confiscated goods.

My brother has managed to get in touch with people to find out if any stores are open. Some are and he leaves to get groceries. I am relieved that rationing won’t be necessary for the moment.

My mother tells me about a contact who lives near an informal settlement. She says that black and coloured people are exchanging fire. Besides concerns for personal safety, these events have dashed my hopes that the boundaries between skin colour might dissolve. On one hand, it is human nature to make snap judgements based on appearance. It is a survival mechanism and most of us are in survival mode right now. But it doesn’t change the fact that we are wrong.

...
My brother has just sent me a message saying that most shelves are empty and he hasn’t even made it into the store yet.
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My brother has just sent me a message saying that most shelves are empty and he hasn’t even made it into the store yet. Perhaps rationing will still be necessary.

See also:

Seen elsewhere: NO FOOD to buy in Howick

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