As teenagers, Thabani and Thobani Mlwando woke up in their two-bedroom house before dawn every day to help their mother grow yams and sweet potatoes that she sold in town.
They lived from hand to mouth and on a rare rare day, he made only 200 South African rand ($ 14).
Born just three minutes away, with Thabani being the oldest, the Mlwando twins were inseparable.
“They were best friends.” You can’t tell one secret without the other knowing it, ”said her aunt, Welile Ntima, who helped her single mother raise the twin males.
Laughing through her tears, she said, “Thabani has taken his role of older twin brother very seriously.”
The night after the arrest of former South African President Jacob Zuma, protests resulting in looting, riots and violence engulfed part of his native province, KwaZulu-Natal.
On July 8, around 8 p.m., Thabani, 23, his twin brother, and a group of his friends heard about the for-free for all at a local grocery store that was packed in Pinetown, where one of them was working as a caretaker, and he decided to walk there.
The men stood at the entrance of the store, amazed by the chaotic scenes of people grabbing food and appliances for free and ending up without a sink.
Thabani took a bottle of cold drink from the floor, but when he looked up, his brother and friends were approaching the disease.
Soon after midnight, the group returned to their residence covered in blood, afflicted, and frantic – without him.
Thabani had been killed and killed.
Look for answers
Her aunt, still grieving the loss, said: “We don’t know what really happened to her. We are always looking for answers. People say he was the store’s security guard because he was stealing. We are poor, but I would also prostitute myself to pay her bail. Why kill our child? “
At least 117 people were killed during the widespread riot that lasted nine days.
The devastation felt by families and communities, who have lost 14-year-old children, is being felt across the country.
Sino Ngema, a community activist who joined a volunteer police crew at the Pinetown grocery store, said: “I can’t believe a young man lost his life here for a bottle of cold drink, for only 20 rand ($ 1.40)). Another boy who was shot in Alexandra was right next to the mall. He’s just right. “
As the government struggles to reach a consensus on what caused the civil unrest, community leaders have blamed poverty, gross inequality and rising unemployment.
Thapelo Mohapi of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the largest civilian organization of the poor in post-apartheid South Africa, said: “We have always said that the anger of the people will go in many directions. We know people saw an opportunity to avoid going to bed hungry and they took it. ”
He continued, “If you look closely, the people who were arrested for the robbery are people who have lost their jobs, live in misery and are hungry.”
Thousands of people arrested
About 2,500 people have been arrested on charges ranging from property damage, theft and robbery in connection with the riots.
Civil unrest had plagued most communities that are full of informal settlements, inadequate housing and inhuman living conditions.
Mohapi alluded to this being a clear indication of the problem.
“The pandemic requires one to wash their hands and be clean, yet there are numerous communities in cantons and informal settlements with a communal toilet, a water pipe and no electricity,” he said.
South Africa experienced three waves of the coronavirus.
In May 2020, during the first closure, the South African government implemented a 350 rand ($ 24) social assistance grant for unemployed and refugee citizens.
In April 2021, the government ended the grant, saying it could no longer pay it, causing devastation for many.
Mohapi said this is just one example of many ways the government continues to fail and forget about the marginalized.
“After all the hard blocks, the poorest of the poor have been the most affected,” he said.
“There is no doubt that these protests are the result of the socio-economic conditions of this country. It will not be the last time something similar will happen.”
Environmental activist and sociology scholar Mpho Ndaba had similar sentiments.
“The national bloc has highlighted the extent to which the majority of blacks suffer from poverty, unemployment and lack of access to adequate food and nutrition in South Africa,” Ndaba said.
“So while we can recognize the political opportunism of some.” [protests], we must also take into account the fact that people are hungry and do not have access to basic needs ”.
On July 13, a video of a young boy returning from a mall with a bag from a clothing retailer went viral on social media.
The sweet-talking boy from the Township of Vosloorus, Johannesburg, had taken socks, a pack of underwear, a pair of shoes and clothes.
South Africans gathered to find him, and a family friend quickly organized a fundraiser that raised more than 50,000 rand ($ 3,430).
Thandi Makhosi, 34, an unemployed mother of three who said she donated 200 rand ($ 14), said: “I don’t have much, but no child should ever be exposed to such violence for the needs. basically. It broke my heart. I could have been killed. “
Kayla Forster, 28, an accountant who donated 1,000 rand ($ 69), said she really cared about the nature of these protests when she watched the video.
“He took the things he needed. This mall is huge, he could take anything,” he said.
“Then we talk about poverty as if it were normal. It is flagrant that people live in these horrible conditions. I am embarrassed by this government. “
Ndaba insisted that things cannot return to normal.
“The notion of‘ reconstruction of SA ’(a term popularized by the president since the uprisings), simply means a return to the status quo where poor blacks remain in precarious positions,” he said.
“We need a new ‘normal’ that includes critical structural interventions.”