The DA in KwaZulu-Natal has today launched a programme to Unite, Rebuild and Protect the communities throughout the province that were shattered by the violence and looting of the ANC’s factional war that spilled onto its streets.

Three weeks after the events, it’s still hard to come to terms with the sheer scale of the devastation and plunder, and it is critical that justice is done – and seen to be done – for not only the looters and instigators, but also those who failed in their constitutional duty to protect citizens. There has to be consequences for the damage and loss of lives and livelihoods. We cannot allow those responsible to simply walk away from it and this will require a considered and transparent analysis, not a cover-up.

But just as important, we need to pick up the pieces in these damaged communities and bring people together around the task of putting broken buildings, businesses and lives back together again.

What this province certainly does not need and cannot afford is the kind of crass racial baiting and scapegoating that we have seen from parts of the ANC and the EFF since the unrest. Nobody wins when hatred and blame are whipped up by politicians eager to score political mileage from the chaos, just as nobody wins when more businesses are destroyed and more jobs are lost forever.

Already the DA, through its leadership and councillors, has been at the forefront of this effort to safeguard threatened communities and clean up the mess. Now, through our project to Unite, Rebuild and Protect our Communities, we will take advantage of this momentum by extending an invitation to all role players and influential voices to join us in these efforts.

What we have seen in affected communities is that the desire to build is far greater than the desire to destroy. But in order to be effective, the builders need to find each other and become organised. And so our DA councillors throughout the province will be calling meetings with stakeholders in their wards to discuss all issues relating to service delivery and safety in an effort to better protect these communities.

These meetings will bring together traditional leaders, religious leaders, neighbourhood watches, ratepayers associations, community policing forums and any other significant voices of leadership in these communities. On the agenda will be service delivery steps that must be taken to improve safety, as well as discussions around ways to strengthen social cohesion and stamp out the poisonous narrative of racial scapegoating.

As with all the other big challenges in our country, the rebuilding and reuniting of KZN will require a whole-of-society approach. And in the vacuum left by a missing ANC government, the DA will do whatever it can to rally society around this crucial cause.

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John Steenhuisen

John Steenhuisen is federal leader of the Democratic Alliance, opposition party of the Republic of South Africa.

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