Police response to looting was ‘lazy’ and influenced by class: Phumzile Van Damme

26 July 2021 - 12:00 By unathi nkanjeni
Former MP Phumzile Van Damme believes class influenced the response by police officers to the recent unrest and looting. File photo.
Former MP Phumzile Van Damme believes class influenced the response by police officers to the recent unrest and looting. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/Neil Hall

Former DA MP Phumzile Van Damme is the latest to weigh in on the response by the police to the unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng earlier this month, saying it was “lazy” and influenced by class. 

In a lengthy social media post at the weekend, Van Damme shared her thoughts on how race and class allegedly influenced their response to the looting, destruction of property and deaths.

Van Damme said the events will go down in history as the July 2021 insurrection

“The looting and violence was mostly concentrated in townships and spilled into areas surrounding those. The police response was lazy. I have racked my mind whether this was sheer [incompetence] or a subconscious bias was at play. I reached the conclusion, yes,” said Van Damme.

She said had the violence and looting taken place in suburbs and malls like Sandton City, the response by police would have been different.

“The police would have been far more decisive. Shoot to kill would have been activated. Social class.

“It was in townships, poor black people destroying other black people’s businesses. We would assume in a majority black country this would mean black people do not carry social and racial bias. This is not true. The police service was sort of ‘meh’, as we saw in the video when two people ran off,” she said.

According to Van Damme, the police would have not been “laid back” if middle- and upper-class neighbourhoods were targeted.

“Class influenced the response,” she said. “Race influenced the response. Black-on-black violence. Black lives do not matter. Had it been interracial, the response would have been different.

“It is deeply painful, and to me, provides an answer to my confusion and bewilderment at what happened. I was distraught and thought it out thoroughly. This is a moment that requires deep introspection from SA. One that requires impetus in pushing for closing the inequality gap,” said Van Damme.

She said the events were a moment for many to examine their subconscious bias and not sweep things under the carpet.

At a social level SA has some hard questions to ask itself. We are very tense and nerves are frayed. Those who thrive on division and chaos, do not be manipulated
Phumzile Van Damme

“Beyond the government’s incompetence, at a social level SA has some hard questions to ask itself. We are very tense and nerves are frayed. Those who thrive on division and chaos, do not be manipulated. That can only be avoided if you do some work on yourself and your mind.”

According to the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints), more than 3,400 people have been arrested since violence and looting erupted in both provinces.

The rioting has claimed 337 lives, with 79 deaths reported in Gauteng and 258 in KZN.

While addressing the nation on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said more arrests will be made.

“Investigations into the violence and those behind it are continuing, led by our specialised law enforcement units, with a view to speedy arrests and effective prosecutions,” he said.

“Special measures have been put in place to manage the large number of suspects who have been arrested for offences related to the unrest.

“There will be further arrests, particularly of those who conceptualised, planned and executed these actions that have led to so much destruction and loss of life.”


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