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Picture by Kierran Allen: "A moment I will remember forever, a moment that brought the Rainbow Nation to its knees!!!"

KwaZulu-Natal photographer and videographer Kierran Allen has captured all sides of the tragic week in South Africa, where parts of KZN and Gauteng descended into chaos… destroying livelihoods and claiming the lives of at least 337 people.

Watch the video below, commissioned by VICE World News, with footage filmed by Kierran, as well as his voice-over providing an insider account of the week that brought the Rainbow Nation to its knees.

The violence, riots and looting were triggered by the imprisonment of former South African President, Jacob Zuma, but fuelled by so much more – by poverty and inequality. As the week of riots and looting left parts of Durban in flames, Kierran takes VICE viewers inside SA’s descent into chaos to witness the scale of the rage and destruction as the protests turned deadly.

Over $1.4 billion worth of damage was caused across the country. In Umhlanga a chemical warehouse containing 1600 hazardous chemicals was set alight… leaving an aftermath of polluted streams and resulting in an environmental disaster. (See more on Carte Blanche if you’re abroad.)


Protests spread from 9 July, much of it motivated by hunger and unemployment. About 12.8 million people are unemployed.

Kierran shows the vigilante groups that rose to protect their homes and families as police struggled to deal with the scale of the protests.

YouTube user Timothy Will has left a comment beneath the video saying:

“I’ve been a Police Officer for the last 26 years in Durban and I thought I had pretty much seen everything. But working through that period I saw things that I never thought I would see. Honestly speaking, we in Law Enforcement were so overwhelmed by the sheer scale of it, and if it weren’t for the people manning the checkpoints, we would have lost the suburbs as well. Special thanks to all those who helped. Your time, effort and dedication is deeply appreciated.”

One KZN resident told Kierran they all sacrificed to ensure that unity was established within their communities. Private pilots flew in essential supplies like baby food as store shelves were emptied by looters.

Despite the looting and violence, the Durban community began to clean up the city.

What upset so many, like SA comedian Carvin H. Goldstone, was that so much was destroyed and discarded, not taken. Parents wept as they found their children’s photos and sentimental items burnt – for no reason other than to destroy them – in storage units.

Carvin says:

“We have to make sure that we build a country where this never happens again. We have to make our people feel secure, that they never feel so disinvested that they can just destroy…”

The video’s message is for poverty and inequality in SA to be addressed or the violence of this horrific week “may return”. It is time to not look back, but look forward for the sake of the next generation. As Carvin points out, this is an opportunity to rebuild South Africa in a way that includes all South Africans rather than excluding some.

WATCH VIDEO: South Africa’s descent into chaos

Follow Kierran Allen on YouTube or Kierran Allen Photography on Facebook