South African expats unite against country’s ‘heart-wrenching’ riots

A stroll through a green and peaceful suburb of regional New South Wales is, for these South African nationals, a far cry from the violence that has unfolded in their home country.

The expat group finds solace with each other as their loved ones are caught up in the unrest, sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for failing to show up for a corruption probe.

Durban is among the hot spots of the riots that broke out following the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.(

Reuters: Rogan Ward


Confronting images of ransacked shops, flaming main streets and destruction across the country have flooded the social media feeds of Ms Chippendall and her friends over the past week.

She and her friends live in Coffs Harbor on the north coast of New South Wales, which is home to a large South African expat community.

Among them is Beverley Harper, whose parents – both aged 70 – live in Emalahleni, where some of the riots have taken place.

The country’s government has deployed more than 25,000 troops to try to quell the riots, which have so far claimed 212 lives.

For her friend Michelle Collard, it is the worst violence she has seen in the country.

“I have never seen South Africa as bad as it is now.”

Group of friends holding photos of their loved ones
Bev Harper (second from left) and Mariette Chippindall (far right) and their friends hold pictures of their loved ones in South Africa.(

ABC Coffs Coast: Claudia Jambor


Live in fear

Despite the ongoing conflict, Ms Harper says her father continues to work, which means her mother is the only one listening to the commotion in the nearby streets.

“She was barricaded in the house,” Ms. Harper said.

“She was home alone and was afraid of what was going on.”

Ms Harper called her parents daily to give them as much emotional support as possible from a distance.

“It is extremely heartbreaking,” she said.

Fire near Durban
Hell in Durban as riots continue in parts of South Africa.(

Provided: Kovin Moodley


Bunkering, limited supplies

His expatriate compatriot Mark McClurg has also been in regular contact with his friend Ryan Pembroke and others in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal province, one of the main hotbeds of riots.

“It pulls on the chords – this is the country I grew up in.”

He said some have chosen to isolate themselves in their homes.

“It was an unexpected situation of protest and looting. People didn’t have time to go and get food,” McClurg said.

“So now they are heading home with limited food supplies.”

two friends repairing a surfboard
Mark McClurg (right) has been in close contact with his friend Ryan Pembroke who is in hiding in Durban.(

Provided: Mark McClurg


Fuel in high demand

The violence has disrupted food and fuel supplies throughout the county and left many – like Mr McClurg’s friends who want to leave Durban – in dire straits.

“The problem with guys who want to go out is that there is no fuel and the very few places that still sell fuel have queues of several miles,” McClurg said.

He said he felt “utterly helpless” despite his efforts to provide support from a distance.

“It is difficult. We are here, it is a safe place, it is a safe country,” he said.

“Maybe if we do, other governments can offer some kind of support.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa said calm had returned to the worst-affected parts of South Africa.

More than 2,500 people have been arrested for theft and vandalism as the country faces a clean-up bill expected to run into the billions of dollars.

About Eric Buss

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