DURBAN - AMID the unfortunate scenes which played out during the horrific events, as businesses went up in flames and shops got looted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, it is time for introspection as not only the media, but society at large.
We need to ask ourselves why did we, as the media and society, fail to grasp the mood leading up to one of the most violent riots in democratic South Africa.
The signs leading up to the horrific violence in our communities were there for all to see. The intelligence was there. Even a five-year-old could see the tension, and the outcome that would follow the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma was inevitable.
Whether one thinks his arrest was just or unjust, it is now neither here nor there. The fact is that lives have been lost and we cannot turn a blind eye to that. As the media and as decent human beings, we have the responsibility to preserve the value and sanctity of human life. As the media we must always report factually, accurately and independently.
Nothing is off the table.
Even our colleagues in the media and our political and community leaders, who responded with open hostility towards those questioning the judicial overreach and the inconsistencies of our courts, must be questioned without fear or favour.
As things stand, our team on the ground has asked the important and genuine questions about a situation which has, unfortunately, left our enforcement agencies caught with their pants down and unable to extinguish the fires of civil unrest.
The glaring numbness displayed by those who call themselves leaders of this country has exposed their inability to listen and lead. As a result, they have responded with provocations and have stirred racial tensions, which have now pitted our diverse communities against each other.
With all the civil unrest that left the economy vulnerable, jobs lost, and infrastructure destroyed, is it not time to reflect on how all of this could have been avoided? Is it not time for a provincial dialogue on relations between the African and Indian South African communities? Is it not time to all work together in order to bring peace and stability?
Make no mistake, the arrest of Zuma might have been the trigger. However, the civil unrest speaks to a wide range of underlying issues that have never been addressed, such as poverty, hunger, inequality, discrimination, and a lack of access to lucrative economic opportunities.
The government must heed the call and listen to those calling for justice, so that we can find closure and hold those responsible for the killings to account.
As the Daily News, we call on the government of the day to provide the long-desired inch of leadership and institute an investigation into the killing of people in Phoenix. We further call on those who incited violence to be held responsible. Also, it must be known that it is not only Phoenix where people were killed.
Our team has uncovered other murders in various communities around the city and we call on the police to do their jobs, by bringing those who broke the law to book. All of this must be done under the ambit of justice, social cohesion and reconciliation.
Order must reign, justice must prevail and leadership must be provided.
South Africa is still reeling from the fresh wounds of many years of systematic discrimination of black people, through the apartheid regime.
Memories of calamity and the pain of forced poverty among the black and Indian people, by the apartheid system, live very well within our communities – where poverty remains rife.
How we respond to what transpired in the country will either create further divisions or forge a way forward – which enhances cohesion among the deeply divided communities in the country.
Also, history leaves no blank pages. Every page shall have details on the kind of people we were and what we chose to do and, in this instance, we chose journalism and the truth.
The age-old saying goes, only the truth shall set you free. In this instance, as a media entity, we chose the truth – along with fair and balanced reporting. We have not taken sides. When some communities stood up to defend themselves we reported it; and when vigilantes took the law into their own hands and killed people, we still reported.
We have never taken sides and we never will. The thing about the truth is that it will make some people feel uncomfortable, but the principle that we have adopted is that we will always tell it like it is, no matter what. We always strive to be honest and always report the facts.
The story of the hacking, burning and shooting of people in Phoenix must be told, so that we may be reminded of the tragedy and prevent history from repeating itself.
The dedicated Daily News team has been at the forefront, covering the tragedy of Phoenix and allowing people to share the unspeakable horror, which occurred during the riots, with the world.
We set out to report the truth and hold those responsible accountable, painful as it may be. Someone has to do the job because we are the voice of the masses who read our stories every day.
We refuse to suppress the truth and we are not in favour of certain groups, while suppressing others.
We cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening because innocent people have lost their lives.
We also cannot turn a blind eye to businesses that suffered as a result of mass looting.
Our Daily News team must be commended for their hard work, dedication, and for being the beacon of hope for the voiceless in times of trouble.
The newspaper has worked on some of the biggest stories in the country and continues to set the agenda, even in the most hostile environment – where the most powerful people have threatened our reporters, hoping they would back down.
It is now up to us to work towards rebuilding our country and preaching the spirit of ubuntu, working together and living in harmony, so that the next generation may not have to deal with today’s challenges.
Our role is to pull people together and build the province and the country.
We are driven by the love for our country, our people, and our communities, and we will commit to continue focussing on nation-building and reconciliation – while reporting truthfully and accurately about all the deaths that occurred in various communities.
Ayanda Mdluli is the editor of the Daily News