The crumbling roof of this printing house is still smoky, giving it a pungent odor of chemical combustion. Within a week after the riots that rocked South Africa, the scale of the devastation was breathtaking.
Two annoyed workers explore piles of gray smoke, once the wheels of sticky paper are now loaded into obsolete printers. In this industrial area of Durban Harbor (southeast), factory production labels were one of the sites almost destroyed by violence and fires in mid-July.
“There’s really nothing to save,” this foreman breathes, walking cautiously around the remnants of the burnt engines. His colleague, a forklift driver, shrugs his shoulders. “Here we go, I saw enough”.
A woman approaches and lifts her cellphone to the picture. He participated in the construction of the building five years ago. “We have to tear it all down,” she sighed. “When we see the extent of destruction in a week, why would anyone invest in us?”
Across the road, hundreds of exploding television screens were dumped in the rubbish bin at the entrance to the blackened LG Electronics factory a year ago from the country’s economic capital, Johannesburg.
Dilapidated washing machines and air conditioners shine in the sun, next to some unsuitable shoes, no doubt lost in the melee by robbers and firefighters.
A security guard searches for debris, scrap metal and parts.
– Broken bottles and jars –
The manufacturing industry is one of the pillars of Durban’s economy, spurring near one of Africa’s most important seaports. Thousands of people work in the large factories and warehouses on the outskirts of this tourist destination.
Insurgents targeted these industrial buildings, looted and set fire to shares in the outbreak of violence, initially triggered by the July 8 imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma in the area. The unrest spread to Johannesburg, killing a total of 215 people.
The government estimates that property damage in KwaZulu-Natal province alone is estimated at about 1.2 billion euros.
A few kilometers away, in the warehouse of dairy products, you have to go to a maroon, acrid and slippery soil, a mixture of milk and butter, bottles and broken pots.
Outside the hill overlooking the industrial suburb of Pintown, neighboring slum dwellers scurry along the road amid rubbish or scraps. Behind them, the blackened corpse of a factory owned by the Australian-American packaging company Amcore still smokes.
If any bodies are found during the clean-up operations, police officers are in the area.
One of them told AFP several robbers were found in local factories, caught in a fire or crushed by fallen stock.
It shows a frozen meat packing plant, which is blocked from access as it explodes into flames. “I don’t want to be there,” he says angrily. “It already stinks so badly.”