Opinion: We’ve learned to loot from government

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Log onto any social media platform or switch over to any South African news channel, and you will be bombarded with visuals showing a shocking state of affairs. Mzansi is in a crisis unlike any other we have endured before, writes Lucinda Dordley, the head of news at Food For Mzansi.

Looters are plundering shopping malls, small businesses and other retail outlets for a taste of access and wealth; something that a large proportion of the country’s working class may never fully experience.

I believe that South Africa has normalised a culture of extreme greed and selfishness. News of corruption and mismanaged funds at government level is common, and most often met with a sigh of “again?” when citizens hear about it.

Following the path of logic, humans learn by example, so if the leaders of society in this case, our government have set the example by looting funds, the working class is likely to follow suit.

There are many different opinions on the current anarchy and looting; some believe it is wrong, period. Others believe that it is justified, as the media depicts those doing the looting as the country’s underprivileged. However, this may not be fully true, as there have been videos circulating on social media showing an individual looting from a Woolies before jumping into his Mercedes.

Signifiers of wealth

This picture, showing two women sitting on an expensive leather sofa, has gone viral as looting has ticked up in the country. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
This picture, showing two women sitting on an expensive leather sofa, has gone viral as looting has ticked up in the country. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

One of the pictures that has gone viral shows a pair of women sitting on the sidewalk beside a row of shacks on a large blue leather sectional sofa.

This picture is commonly accompanied by a screenshot of the sofa’s price, which is nearly R70 000, and social media comments saying that the sofa may not even fit in either of their shacks.

The types of items being looted have included usually-expensive items such as the blue sofa and televisions or mattresses.

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This makes me think that the looting has far surpassed the stealing of items needed, such as food, and made its way into the realm of stealing signifiers of wealth.

For a large proportion of the country’s working class, purchasing an item such as a television or mattress is not easy. It may takes months of saving, or accruing debt, to get a hold of the item.

A leather sectional sofa that costs R70 000 may, in reality, only live in fantasy for a lot of South Africans, but never in their lounges.

It is a sad reality for many, especially living in a world that is so driven by the desire for wealth. Arguably, South Africa has become the home of the nouveau riche, a term that makes reference to often gaudy and ostentatious shows of wealth.

Are we really surprised?

It is not uncommon to see a governmental official or politician driving around in a flashy car or living on a vast and lush estate.

Following my earlier thread on South Africans following the examples of our leaders, it would make sense that the average citizen then also idolises a life of wealth and access. And access really is the crux here.

When money or tenders disappear, they were often budgeted to help the residents of this country. The money may have gone to infrastructure repairs at an isolated school in a farming community or gone to repairing roads in a province where farmers are struggling to transport their produce and livestock. Instead, the money is poof!, gone without a trace.

When the citizens do not have adequate access to the basics, they often have to resort to their own means of ensuring they have a way of getting to what they need. Some part of me is not surprised that the looting has become as widespread as it has so rapidly.

My only hope is that government will one day see that it does more harm than good for the country when the wants of the individual is put before the need of the masses.

  • Lucinda Dordley is the head of news at Food For Mzansi.

ALSO READ: The cost of looting: ‘We’ve got four days before food runs out’

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