'stop the anarchy'

THIS is anarchy, roared two senior government officials yesterday.

They were condemning the looting by the SA Unemployed People's Movement's members in Durban on Wednesday.

The police arrested 100 alleged looters on the scene.

The group, consisting of mainly women, some of them pregnant, spent the night in cells at the Durban Central police station after they allegedly looted goods from Shoprite Checkers and Pick n Pay.

Their court appearance was held in the basement of the Durban magistrate's court yesterday.

Prosecutor Nhlanhla Mkhize told journalists they would not be given access to the special court room "for security reasons".

When the accused were granted free bail they burst into songs of jubilation and freedom slogans.

The movement's spokesperson Nozipho Mteshane, said they would lay countercharges against the police for "assaulting" their members.

SAUPM is demanding a basic income grant of R1500 each for the unemployed.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for local government and traditional affairs Willies Mchunu yesterday said "looting was bad for the economy" and was akin to "anarchy".

"The looting is uncalled for. It dampens business confidence and threatens the economic development of our province," Mchunu said.

" We would like to advise our people to refuse to be misled by anyone.

"These people might be opportunistically using the genuine concerns and plight of our people to achieve selfish short-term ends."

Two weeks ago thousands of SAUPM members marched through Durban city centre and handed a memorandum with a list of grievances to government officials.

Mchunu said the government had "clear policies" on addressing hunger, want and underdevelopment. He urged those affected to get in touch with all relevant state departments.

"As the due process of the law takes its course we hope a strong message will be sent out to all - that looting is a punishable crime," he said. "Anarchy has no place in a democratic South Africa.

"I call on the leadership of the SA Unemployed People's Movement to engage with us on these matters."

eThekwini mayor Obed Mlaba also said the looting was "criminal".

He said notwithstanding the constitutional right of people to strike - and the plight faced by the unemployed - the looting of shops could never be justified. "The organisers of this march should be held liable.

We also want to set the record straight. The municipality does not provide unemployment grants. This is a function of the government."