‘They were too many — thousands,’ looted mall manager tells Ramaphosa
'I have never seen so many people in my life'
Umlazi Mega City general manager Hope Khumalo told President Cyril Ramaphosa how looters ransacked the mall and cleaned out all stock in 48 hours.
Ramaphosa paid an oversight visit to the mall, south of Durban, to see the damage on Friday.
“They came in that way and started with McDonald’s and Nando’s outside before charging inside the fenced area and overwhelming the security,” Khumalo told the president.
Ramaphosa asked during the mall walkabout: “How many were they?”
Khumalo responded: “They were too many. I would say in the thousands. I have never seen so many people in my life.”
Speaking to TimesLIVE after Ramaphosa’s departure, Khumalo said they had been tipped off as early as last Sunday morning.
By 11am, she said, all staff were evacuated and the mall was shut down while security was beefed up and the police were called in. But the warning and tightening of security was of little use.
“It took the looters 48 hours to clean out the Mega City and they destroyed everything,” she said. “Our private security and police were overwhelmed and fires were being started all over, which directed our focus to putting out fires while they looted non-stop.
Fires were being started all over, which directed our focus to putting out fires while they looted non-stop.Hope Khumalo, Umlazi Mega City GM
“We succeeded in putting out fires ... Our mall is not as badly damaged as others. All walls are still standing, so ours is to repair what was damaged rather than rebuild from scratch.”
Khumalo said it was too early to estimate how much repairs would cost, an exercise she believes will take at least three months.
A few shops had already started to clean up, but many people feared the looters might return.
Khumalo said the experience was a “nightmare” she never saw coming when she took the job seven months ago, having moved back home after working in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.
“When I took up this job in December from Circus Triangle in Mthatha, little did I know today our mall would be looking like this mess,” she said.
“All I wanted at the time was to return closer to home and this is, unfortunately, a nightmare of a welcome back home.
“We are, however, grateful President Ramaphosa chose to visit us among other places. With this getting the attention of the country’s number 1, it gives us great hope things will be better soon.”