Diary of Durban's apocalypse

Dr Karin Morrow relates to David Bullard her experience of the orgy of looting and destruction in the city


The horrendous events of the past week in KZN and, to a slightly lesser extent, in Gauteng are a microcosm of the entire ANC culture these past twenty-seven years. The thieving, looting and sheer wanton destruction of anything that could be remotely linked to a properly functioning society have obvious parallels with the looting of state coffers by well connected cadres, the collapse of municipal services, the hollowing out of state institutions, the vandalizing of railway lines and the constant threat to our electricity supply.

What struck me most while watching the many videos of the looting earlier in the week was the casualness of the looters. Apart from a few who were scrambling for a fast getaway, most of the looters proceeded at a leisurely pace with no attempt to hide their identity and with no fear whatsoever of being apprehended. Admittedly it is a bit difficult to break into a run when you are carrying a deep freeze on your head.

However, the real comparison to the ANC is the obvious lack of any forward planning. We all know to our cost that the ANC has, over the years, neglected to maintain all manner of infrastructure with the result that we have out-dated power stations, crumbling roads, questionable water supplies, an appalling education system, burnt out hospitals and…. well, the list goes on.

Last week’s looters showed similar lack of foresight when they destroyed the very places that they would expect to buy their food or medicines in the coming weeks. Surely as your waddling home with a bag of stolen goodies the thought must occur to you that it wasn’t a smart idea to torch the entire shopping mall because you may want to go back and loot again next week? Apparently not.

I followed much of what was happening on Twitter. My old account was banned in March for derogatory comments I made about COSATU’s racist attacks on Lindsay Dentlinger.

Obviously fanning the flames of revolution is not deemed as serious by Twitter so the Zuma girl-child was allowed to encourage the violence despite many complaints to Twitter.

Despite my ban and the fact that I couldn’t be bothered to reinstate my original Twitter account I have re-emerged with another identity to keep an eye on things. I very rarely comment and I follow very few but I can now access accounts that previously blocked me which is often very enlightening. By heaven, there are a lot of white woke whackos on social media.

One Twitter account that I do follow is @rinmor. It’s the Twitter account of Dr Karin Morrow who is a GP in Durban and her daily description of what was happening on her doorstep was way better than anything the mainstream media could dish up. So much so that she even warranted an honourable mention on Bruce Whitfield’s Money Show on Cape Talk and 702.

I contacted Karin last weekend to ask whether I could ‘loot’ her recollections of the past week and ask a few probing questions and she very kindly agreed. So here’s her edited KZN disaster diary:

Friday July 9th

This was the day the planned anarchy began. Apart from the torching of trucks at the Mooi River Toll plaza there were burning tyres in the Durban CBD, blocked streets and sugar cane fields set alight.

All this was celebrated on Twitter by Dudu Zuma-Sambudla who I reported, as did many others, but no action was taken. KZN premier Sihle Zikalala didn’t help matters by siding with Zuma and demanding a presidential pardon. That would have encouraged the looters no end. Our mayor remained invisible.

Saturday July 10th

A brief lull and there were predictions that the N3 would be cleared but truckers were warned to be wary. Not a word from our leaders. In the evening a black patient of mine messaged me saying she had heard that the whole of KZN was going to be shut down next week and could she get her prescription now and make an appointment for a month end consultation.

I told her I lived in a bubble and hadn’t heard this and jokingly suggested that she should offer her services as ‘intel’ to Pres Ramaphosa.

Sunday July 11th

This was the start of the real chaos, which was to become a daily occurrence during the week. Co-ordinated simultaneous looting and arson attacks were launched on various buildings including a liquor warehouse in Pinetown.

Gunfire rang out that night along with shouting and screaming from Mayville/Cato Crest which is 2km as the crow flies from where I live. Frenzied WhatsApp messages went out asking what was going on?

Monday July 12th

The frenzy of last night was explained this morning with photos of the gutted small business district of Mayville. Businesses were set alight and the police shot at. But things were about to get much worse. Today was to be Durban’s apocalypse.

Warehouses, shopping centres, liquor outlets, factories, schools, storage units, pharmacies, water reservoirs all attacked and most destroyed. Even a blood bank was destroyed. The lack of chronic medication is going to be a major problem in the coming days and weeks.

Meanwhile, silence from our Premier and mayor and the eThekwini Twitter site had temporarily shut down.

I watched mobs of looters surge over the ridge and down into my suburb of Glenwood to strip the local shopping centres. Davenport Centre and Berea Centre along with smaller shops along the way were all smashed and looted.

The looters returned up the hill towards the informal settlement and the university residence pushing trolleys of stolen goods, carrying bags on their heads, pulling crates of beer along the road and one even carrying a typist’s office chair.

I drove up to collect my elderly parents who live close to the settlement. The roads were barely passable, strewn with rubbish and broken glass with looters still weaving their way home with their spoils.

I drove past my local Woolies which had been smashed and emptied. I saw the first police in several days.

The air was acrid with the many fires burning and fine ash rained down as we heard constant gunfire in the distance.

Our local community finally realised that nobody was coming to protect our lives and our homes so civilian volunteers gathered at a central point and patrols were set up for the night and the following day. These would be termed ‘vigilante militias’ by smug woke journos and academics sitting in nice safe Cape Town.

That evening we watched Pres Ramaphosa’s underwhelming address to the nation as the looting of the Queensmead Mall in Umbilo unfolded on the screen behind him….and not a policeman to be seen. My husband had a retail business in the mall (now looted) until last year.

Tuesday July 13th

The destruction has spread to the large warehouses like Massmart and other buildings in what used to be the business district but is now a war zone. There are aerial shots of long queues of cars, many of them upper end of the market vehicles, all waiting to load up and transport stolen goods.

So much for this being all about the starving unemployed just trying to survive. Durban residents started with the clean up process of their suburbs and it was uplifting to see how good people could come together in times of adversity. Our political leaders were still conspicuous by their absence apart from the DA’s John Steenhuisen (a Durban man) who gave some very welcome support on the ground to traumatised residents. By contrast, the EFF’s Julius Malema was using social media to continue to stir the pot.

There are food and fuel shortages and medicines are difficult to come by. Long queues are forming and decent citizens are patiently standing in those long queues and shopping for those who are unable to do so. There’s no fighting…. I guess traumatised people who have been under attack become rather docile. Some even managed to crack a few jokes to keep spirits up.

My phone has been pinging all day with patients who need new prescriptions to take to an unlooted pharmacy if they are lucky enough to find one.

Finally, the day takes its toll and I break down with the first (and I hope last) anxiety attack of my life triggered by watching yet more TV coverage of my home province being destroyed.

I collapse in a sobbing heap, feel hopeless and can’t move. My family honestly believe I am dying because I can generally cope with most situations. I take the same tranquilisers I prescribe to patients who suffer anxiety attacks and they seem to help.

Thursday July 15th

Sporadic looting and arson has continued while the community continues to clean up and queue for what little food is left in the neighbourhood. There’s anger at the lack of adequate police presence and the Premier was chased away from Ballito, north of Durban, when he appeared and ordered residents to remove their barricades.

The SANDF finally arrived which was a welcome sight but far too little too late. In other news, dead fish and crayfish are washing up on beaches having been poisoned by the spillage from a burnt-out chemical factory. So we now have a toxic ocean to add to our toxic land.

Friday July 16th

My first day back at the surgery this week and my receptionist came in. She lives on the Bluff which managed to repel repeated attempts by looting hordes thanks to a well armed community militia. Very busy issuing new prescriptions but our COVID vaccine roll out has ground to a halt. Is there even any vaccine left in KZN?

Durbanites are strong people but this week we have been severely traumatised. Apart from the ever-present threat of COVID there will almost certainly be a wave of stress related illnesses that will hit us. There may be an uneasy calm now but, but as with any post traumatic stress disorder, there is a huge anticipatory anxiety. If it happened once with such impunity and ease it can surely happen again. The question is…. when?

Karin’s elderly parents were evacuated to Cape Town to stay with family.