After days of looting in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng provinces of South Africa, the cleanup is in full swing and like a bad hangover, people caught up in the frenzy have realised the implications of having a house full of unpaid-for-goods.
What started out as a protest to free former president Jacob Zuma quickly descended into violent destruction of infrastructure and the looting of shops and goods.
President Cyril Ramaphosa described the unrest as a “failed insurrection” attempt in an address to the nation.
The police and soldiers sent in to quell the violence are now on a recovery mission — retrieving a mountain of stolen goods.
Police minister Bheki Cele said the recovered goods included beds, electronic items, mag-wheels for vehicles and even a casket.
Efforts continued on Wednesday, with many of the looters having abandoned goods after it became clear that homes would be raided in search of stolen items.
A clearing at the informal settlement in Pietermaritzburg (KZN) resembled a graveyard of luxury goods on Monday as 4 South African Infantry Battalion and police arrived to recover looted goods. Scores of items had been abandoned in the area.
One of the more unusual sightings was a casket recovered in Ezinqoleni (KZN) on Monday. It has not yet been established whether the wooden item was empty at the time of recovery.
On Tuesday the Glebelands hostel in Durban (KZN) was searched by the police. The community living in block 51 of the hostel responded by throwing looted items out of the windows to avoid being caught in possession of them.
Marc van Olst, owner of several Pie City shops around the country, said last week he lost 13 shops in KwaZulu-Natal. His shops in Gauteng were not as badly affected, but he chuckled at the sight of his pie-maker in the middle of a looted street in Johannesburg.
“Those are specialist ovens. I can imagine someone sitting in their home wondering what to do with it.”
The blue couch
The Leather Gallery furniture store in Springfield, Durban, is meanwhile still searching for its missing blue couch worth 67,000 Rands (2 million naira).
The company posted on its Instagram account that it was looking for the couch but was willing to exchange it for something that “fits the house”.
Cele said the stolen goods would be placed in storage facilities and might be used as evidence in pending cases.
“They are going to SP13, where police keep anything that might be used as evidence. There is a meeting between the police and the National Prosecuting Authority to work out what will happen to the goods after cases have been finalised.
“Evidence rooms are full. Right now, we are trying to get a warehouse where we can keep them.”
The SA police service said 3,407 suspects have been arrested on various charges.