Post-looting clean-up movements intensify on social media

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Photo credit: Rebuild SA, via Facebook.
Photo credit: Rebuild SA, via Facebook.

As South Africa’s law enforcement officers turn their focus to recovering looted goods, online campaigns continue to gain momentum, in efforts to assist businesses affected by the violence and unrest.

Over the past week, SA descended into chaos and violence, sparked by the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma.

The violence escalated into days of chaos, with shopping malls, warehouses and other properties being looted, and in some instances businesses being set alight.

Several online campaigns have since been established, in efforts to help curb the unrest, and clean-up and rebuild the towns, townships, shopping facilities and businesses that have been destroyed during the violence and looting which unfolded across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Major clean-up operations are under way across the two provinces, with the hashtags #lootingmustfall, #SaveSouthAfrica and #CleanUpSA gaining traction on Twitter, as organisations and citizen unite to share contacts, skills and resources to help return the country to normality.

LinkedIn has also been abuzz with professionals and professional services companies coming forward to volunteer their skills.

Jason Ellis, CEO and founder of security firm Securikor, wrote on his LinkedIn status: “I am offering my services for free to any business of any calibre in Gauteng and KZN that have been affected by the recent spate of rioting and violence. I’m in the cyber security / IT / telco space so I’m willing personally to assist you with working with what you have / procuring what you need to get any facet of your business up and running.”

Frans Hiemstra, GM of Uber Sub-Saharan Africa, offered discounted rides to the Durban and Johannesburg communities, through the ride-hailing company’s app. "Our heart goes out to all that have been impacted by the recent unrest. To mark our support, we will be offering discounted trips to help people get around their city as needed.”

Thulani Sibeko, chief brand and marketing officer at Standard Bank Group, also took to LinkedIn to announce the big-four bank has launched the Rand4Rand initiative.

“Through Rand4Rand, Standard Bank SA will match every rand donated by employees to any of these three organisations: Gift of the Givers, FoodForward and United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. So proud to work for an organisation that drives the growth of SA and Africa, and with colleagues that care. We work together to rebuild SA.”

@LoLoshe5 shared with her Twitter followers: “Anyone around Johannesburg whose business was looted and ruined, I'm an educator and am on school holiday. I would like to come help clean-up free of charge.”

Multibillion-rand damage

The unrest and lawlessness resulted in around 200 shopping malls being destroyed or damaged, with an estimated replacement value expected to run into the tens of billions of rands, with the economic impact expected to be felt for some months to come.

The civil unrest resulted in newly-established campaigns − such as Rebuild SA, the Durban Youth Council’s online campaign and Community Capacity − receiving scores of positive responses from volunteers who have offered assistance to help restore order.

Rebuild SA, a Facebook volunteer group started by 25-year-old Emelda Masango from Soweto, has already attracted nearly 57 000 Facebook members and522 Telegram supporters, who have set up cleaning efforts in looted shopping malls and communities.

“We have grown to 7 961 official volunteer submissions and we are growing every day,” says Natalie Church, co-founder of Rebuild SA.

“While we initially started in Gauteng, we have expanded to KwaZulu-Natal by arranging physical clean-ups, site assessments, food drives and food transportation to Pietermaritzburg and Durban. We are also actively involving other NPOs, community leaders, community policing forum leaders and communities to offer assistance.”

Community Capacity is a Facebook group that was started to connect community members with Telegram and WhatsApp volunteer groups in their areas around Gauteng. The group has since extended its services to connect users with psychological assistance, including suicide and anxiety hotlines.

"Please, if you have been impacted during this time, seek help,” noted a status update on the page.

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