Sunday World

“Looters” now term reserved for the poor

- Siyabonga Hadebe • Hadebe is a social commentato­r

The sad events that took place in South Africa in the recent past have dramatical­ly changed the national lexicon. The vocabulary has added a new word - looter.

A looter means “a person who steals goods, typically during a war or riot”. However, the usage of the term these days adds subtle meanings that require careful scrutinisa­tion.

Scores of people looted shops in KZN and Gauteng, and there is no doubt that crime took place. However, a section of society that has always complained about poor people draining the fiscus via social grants and RDP houses decided to take matters into their own hands. It used the opportunit­y to condemn the desperate masses into a very distinct category of “looters”.

Stealing, fraud and corruption dominate headlines every day, but this word has not been used as it has been over the past days.

Many people who have been exposed at the Commission of Inquiry into Allegation­s of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State, or simply the Zondo Commission, have taken off with millions of rand.

Commercial crimes occur all the time. All these people are presented as criminals and tend to be given a human face because they are wealthier

The rich engage in a variety of crimes such as price fixing and insider trading

than their desperate countrymen.

Busani Ngcaweni is correct to point out that “the lumpen and elite loot alike”. When it came to the poor masses, the lexicograp­hers made us to believe that is not the case. Media houses shared images of people taking food, booze, etc. In response, the state announced that law enforcers would go door to door searching for stolen goods.

Why is it easy to make quick arrangemen­ts to process stealing by the lumpen public when similar acts by the elite classes continue to drain the country of billions each year?

The rich engage in a variety of crimes such as tax avoidance, insider trading, price fixing and public procuremen­t fraud. These acts are nothing close to a person running down the street carrying a refrigerat­or or a bag of rice.

But they are still stealing nonetheles­s, yet they do not get instant courts, and police never go around Sandton and Umhlanga asking people how they obtained expensive houses and cars.

Ngcaweni adds that elite looting “is deadly but less chaotic than the vandalism we witnessed this week”.

It looks like the lower classes touched the central nervous system of the capitalist system that created the wealth disparitie­s that created the masses accused of looting today

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