Scores of people from all over Alexandra on Friday queued for hours to get inside the Alex Mall, which was the last one standing after recent looting and destruction.
There was no social distancing in the almost 1km queue outside the mall, with women and children separated from men.
When TimesLIVE visited, Lucy Jonathan, who runs Lucy’s Kitchen from Alexandra, had been waiting in the queue for almost two hours so she could buy spice for potato chips.
“The whole of Alexandra is here. We can’t live like this,” she said.
“I sell kotas. If I don’t get the spice, my business will die and we will starve. I have a lot of people to feed and I couldn’t send the kids here because I worry when they take too long [when they go out].
“People from other sections are waiting with us in the queues because their malls were looted and burnt. Luckily we have real men this side who managed to protect our mall.”
Zininzi Shezi was another frustrated shopper.
“This is painful and inconvenient. We don’t know why all of this is happening. We’re running out of food. I want to get basics,” Shezi said. she said.
“We already have limited resources and this doesn’t make it easier. There’s no petrol around, so even getting a taxi is a problem sometimes. We’re in trouble. I wish people had done better.”
Sibonile Chuma said all she wanted was sugar. “I want to buy sugar. Things are running out. We are suffering and soon we won’t have anything to buy at the shops.
“This was such a selfish thing. I wish something was done. Those found with goods should be held liable.
“There’s a disease going around [coronavirus]. This is not a time for us to be outside. Some of us are sick and long queues are bad for us.” Chuma said.
Alex Mall manager Lucky Mabiletsa had his hands full controlling who and how many people entered the mall.
“We had to take control of the situation. On one day we didn’t open because we were assessing the situation. Our community is suffering. If we don’t open, they will go to Greenstone Mall [in Edenvale]. We are the closest alternative,” he said.
“People are coming to their senses and the attitude has changed now. Bread is expensive and life is hard. They see it now.”
Mabiletsa said they were armed and vigilant and had locked the gates of the mall to prevent looting.
On Friday, people were entering the mall in groups of 50.
“We have separated men and women. If you are carrying a bag, we search you and we scan them. We are from the hood, we know who is problematic. When men complain about this system, we tell them that when we were protecting the mall, they were sleeping.”
Jonathan said she was disappointed in the people who had burnt and destroyed businesses.
“The malls were built for us and made our lives better. We never used to have options and now it’s back to square one.
“What happened is barbaric. It is inhumane,” she said of the unrest-related deaths and ransacking of stores in the past week.
Jonathan said she feared SA has reached a new level of looting which would be difficult to control in the future.
“Why would the government allow our country to burn like this? This shows our neighbours how weak we are. The same neighbours we harassed [xenophobia] will see how easily we can be invaded as a country.”