Sunday World

Books’ value in times of crisis

Bookstores were spared in the looting spree

- Vusi Nzapheza

Ileft Johannesbu­rg for Cape Town in the evening to tag behind long-distance buses such as Translux and the now defunct Greyhound. The trip is hellishly long and, as I did not have an assistant driver, I chose to pace myself alongside the profession­al drivers.

I arrived in the Mother City the following morning and rushed straight to my place of work at the English daily.

I parked on the streets and foolishly forgot to put my backpack in the boot and left it on the back seat. Around lunchtime, I went to move the car to my employer’s parking as street parking charged by the hour.

As I approached my car, I noticed the back window had been smashed and my magazines scattered on the street.

The backpack was gone with my clothes, but the thief had been considerat­e and left behind back copies of my favourite magazine, New African.

As parts of Kwazulu-natal and Gauteng went up in smoke and a frenzy of looting ensued this week, I watched with alacrity as the poor and not-so-poor people went on a rampage. Triggered by the incarcerat­ion of former president Jacob Zuma last week, the riots quickly morphed into a Black Friday rush of expropriat­ing goods without compensati­on.

Two weeks ago, Swaziland similarly went up in flames as protesters demanded King Mswati’s head.

This was different. Ours may have started as a protest but among the crazed looting mob, little was said about the former president’s fate.

Young kids joined the frenzy as shops were emptied.

For many years, leaders and analysts have warned about the worsening scourge of unemployme­nt and poverty, especially of the young.

The government, including that of Zuma while he was at the helm, did not seem to have solutions. When the global recession hit in 2008, Zuma promised millions of jobs but failed to deliver.

I watched keenly as the visuals came in to see what goods were being pillaged.

Nothing was spared as one mall fell after another

Groceries, alcohol, refrigerat­ors, designer couches, plasma TV sets and even coffins were hauled away. Only bookshops were left standing.

This was déjà vu. The guy who broke into my car had left my books behind. These repositori­es of knowledge and mental nourishmen­t have no appeal to the masses.

As business owners count their losses in the aftermath of the madness, people queued for bread, which is in short supply for obvious reasons. Our intelligen­ce service was caught napping while the army was brought in too late.

Kudos to those citizens who defended their towns and kept them loot-free.

 ?? /Gallo Images ?? Books, the repositori­es of knowledge and mental nourishmen­t, have no appeal to protesters, says the writer.
/Gallo Images Books, the repositori­es of knowledge and mental nourishmen­t, have no appeal to protesters, says the writer.
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