Media Statement on the state of unrest and the way forward

The SACC is an instrument and servant of its members.

From the desk of the General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana

15 July 2021

Today we stand in the midst of debris and brokenness. Over 70 lives have been senselessly lost to this mayhem. This morning our church leaders joined the Soweto Ministers Fraternal to pray at the looted Ndofaya Meadowlands Mall where 10 people perished in the looting stampede. We extend condolences to the families of all those who have died and pray for a speedy recovery to the injured.

This whole commotion happens in the thick of the third wave of COVID-19.  As a result, more lives will likely join the current frightful toll of over 65,000 lost to the pandemic. As we have said before, we shudder to think of the toll of death that might result from the currently unprotected hordes of people, where the wrath of COVID-19 can kill both the economy and large numbers of people, leaving untold misery in many families.     

Indeed we stand in the midst of debris and brokenness. The debris of ruined commercial enterprises as big malls are hollowed, and goods transporter trucks lie as waste on the roadside; we stand in the midst of the brokenness of hope for many small businesses, as in the case of the shops of Alexandra and Soweto, such as Lucky Lekgwati’s restaurant. This is the brokenness of hope for families that put their life savings into their small businesses. We sit today with despair, as many communities in the affected areas may be without access to basic supplies for the days and weeks ahead.

Thousands of jobs may never be recovered and dependent livelihoods lost. The looting and destruction of warehouses, the undermining of the N3 trade route may lead to the reduced use of the great port of Ethekwini, further affecting the economy of the province. These are some possible economic impacts, but this may also have an impact on health care services as health centres are at risk of supply cuts. We thank God that the Afrox oxygen supply centre has not been affected.

We recognise the reality of poverty that encourages hungry people to not resist the opportunity to go and grab what they think will help them in the short term. But the extreme poverty of our people served as the dry wood ready to burn when the match is struck. Of greater concern is evidence of incendiary WhatsApp voice notes that instruct and direct for acts of violence and mayhem. These point to an attempt to foment insurrection and the breakdown of institutional systems. Looting for food is one thing, unacceptable as it is; but targeting and burning up supply places and production centres communicate something beyond the explanation of opportunism in a state of poverty.

We call on the people that perpetrate these things to stop; just stop it! South African people will not tolerate it and will not accept such destruction by faceless people for an unknown agenda. We are a constitutional democracy with structured ways to address any concerns that anyone may have in society.  

Much of the infrastructure will be restored in time. We are grateful that much damage has taken place in limited parts of the two provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. It is important to point out that not all KZN is looting, and not all Gauteng is looting. And it is commendable that the bulk of the country has in fact, not been gripped by this unseemly frenzy. But the impact of what has happened on the psyche and the moral fibre of our society is incalculable. This will require a restoration drive that our communities will now need to embark upon.

Many people of reason have been saying, “this is not us, this is not South African”! The reality is that this is us, this is the South Africa we have right now. But it can be changed if we put serious efforts into it, and infuse positive public values and cultural accountability. This must be deliberately developed as it will not happen accidentally. 

The restoration campaign has already begun, with the laudable heroism of emerging community leaders who mobilise against looting, and for the protection of their community infrastructure. Community volunteers are coming up for mop-up operations which are themselves a healing exercise. On a more deliberate basis, we need leaders of all faiths everywhere, civic and community leaders, traditional leaders in rural communities, and business and trade unions in the workplace, all of us to pull together and chart a path of restoration. The soul of the South African society will be built from the ashes of shame that we are witnessing. As Prophet Ezekiel promises,  “on the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt.” (Ezek. 36:33)

The SACC proposes a restoration drive that may include:

  1. The establishment of a Nation Building Initiative of South South that must involve every South African. It must seek to create community solidarity around positive public values; social cohesion and mutual respect; as well as the difficult effort to make of South Africa’s disparate communities into a consciously single nation that will prosper together. That requires a very clear commitment to addressing poverty and inequality. We cannot live with the reality of 75% youth unemployment and hopelessness. To this end we need to work towards a different social and economic approach. To this end we seek to bring together all organisations and people that want to see the change we need for this country for a different national experience.
  2. To address the immediate economic impacts of the looting, we have made certain recommendations to Government, which we repeat here:
    1. Campaign for Restoration with Amnesty: The church is an agent for reconciliation and the restoration and recovery of the positive human spirit, akin to the African concept of Ubuntu-Botho. When one has participated in wrongdoing, one is to be encouraged to make amends and take on a new path; and that is a part of the person’s healing.  Churches wish to encourage people who have looted, to attempt to return things they stole, by delivering them at the nearest police stations. We do not expect a large-scale uptake of this, but we know that it is already in consideration in certain communities. The SACC request the Police to declare an amnesty for a period of time, say a week or two, during which time anyone who returns goods will not be prosecuted. This is the healing Campaign for Restoration with Amnesty to encourage a positive social conscience, as the Scripture says: “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)
  • Welfare Distribution of Returned Goods: In addition, a suggestion has been made by the Soweto Ministers Fraternal, and we support this, for the perishable goods that being returned or confiscated by law enforcement not to be destroyed, but that a system be created for this to reach destitute families, either through  religious bodies and welfare social service NGOs, as well as through the SASSA system of the Department of Social Development.
  • Economic Restoration Fund: Church leaders are painfully aware of the great number of, especially small entrepreneurs whose start-up business have been seriously impacted by the riotous looting. Many small businesses may have been behind with their insurance premiums on account of the difficult COVID-19 business environment. That would mean that in such circumstances, which can be verified in each case, support from such a restoration fund would be most helpful. There are reports of road-side vendors selling goats and live chickens whose merchandise has also been looted. Where these can be verified, we believe there should be a way of assisting them back on their feet, and continue to support the people whose livelihoods depend on this.
  • Looted Money for Restoration Fund: The SACC is aware that there already are cases of money that has been recovered from the original sin, State Capture looting spree. We believe there is a poetic justice in using State Looting money to compensate for this Public Looting. We urge an aggressive effort to restore the stolen monies; and suggest that Treasury considers applying such monies so recovered from State Capture looting, to the development and sustenance of the proposed Economic Restoration Fund. We believe that such a fund can be the beginning of a fund that others, whose conscience inspires them to support, for the long overdue economic transformation. Economic transformation must deliberately and systematically enhance human dignity and the quality of life, by preserving not only the environmental sustainability of our planet, but also by enabling the participation in the productive economy, of poor citizens and the disadvantaged majority, with a process that progressively engenders wealth redistribution;  to reverse poverty, inequality and low growth through inclusivity.

This bible verse has been used much, but today it cannot be more necessary to apply:

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles, 7:14)

We can do this, and the preamble to our constitution instructs:

We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to –

Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;

Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;

Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person, and Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

May God protect our people!

We can do this! In the name of the resurrected Christ, we make this call!


Media enquiries:

Khuthalani Khumalo

SACC Communications Consultant

South African Council of Churches

Tel: 084 074 1285 | Email: