A Pietermaritzburg shopping centre has apologised to its customers after it took flak for thanking the police for “their support” when unrest swept through the KwaZulu-Natal capital.
Liberty Midlands Mall posted a photograph of police minister Bheki Cele at the mall on Monday on Facebook.
“Liberty Midlands Mall would like to sincerely thank the SA Police Service for their support during the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal last week. Photographed is SA minister of police Bheki Cele during his on-site visit to the mall, together with the Liberty Midlands Mall management team,” read the caption.
But community members and customers were “outraged” and disgusted.
In over 1,200 comments, they expressed their disappointment that the mall chose to thank the police when community members and private security companies had in fact protected the biggest shopping centre in the city from looters.
“The very brave families, who stood shoulder to shoulder to protect the mall, are the very same ones who support your business. Let’s be fair in the media and thank them decently for what they have done, the many hours of braving the cold and leaving their families at home. You would not want to stand alone should it happen again one day. From SA Community Crime Watch we would like to say thank you PMB for standing up and protecting what is yours. Liberty Midlands Mall we challenge you to do the same. Dedicate one wall where communities can write messages of hope and thanks to these brave soldiers,” SA Community Crime Watch commented on the post.
Others said the post was a slap in the face.
“Shame on you Liberty Midlands Mall. To the community and all the private security companies that made the sacrifices to protect the mall, you are the real heroes,” Marlini Moodley commented.
Balu Ngubane said she was disappointed.
“Liberty Midlands Mall I am so disappointed in you! How could you not mention the community as well as private security companies that stood the ground and said the mall will not be burnt or looted? Mxim shame on you for your selfishness. If I had an option to shop somewhere else I would have gone there because you have shown that you don’t care for the very same people that boosts your business,” she commented.
The mall then posted an apology.
“Liberty Midlands Mall understands that this has been a challenging week for the people of SA; and apologises for any offence taken by the previous post. While the post was in acknowledgment of Bheki Cele, and the valued consultation of the SA Police Service, Liberty Midlands Mall would also like to sincerely thank the Chase Valley Community, Woodlands Community, PMB Dog Unit, Tactical Response Team, SANDF, Road Traffic Inspectorate, Public Transport Enforcement Unit, Excellerate Security Services, Magma Security, NightGuard Security, The Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chambers of Business, The SA Council of Shopping Centres, the Greys/Chasevalley Taxi Association, as well as private registered taxi operators for their co-operation and support during this tumultuous time.
“We are stronger together, and Liberty Midlands Mall acknowledges and appreciates the time, understanding and patience of every individual, shopper, tenant, service provider and member of the community that kept the mall standing during the devastation and destruction that plagued SA last week,” it said.
The police ministry said in a statement on Monday that Cele had met with the managements of the Liberty Mall in Pietermaritzburg as well as the Pavilion and Gateway malls in Durban, who provided him with a security plan the retail centres have put together in conjunction with the SAPS.
“The three retail centres came under attack from looters last week, but members of the SAPS speedily contained the volatile situation and together with private security, continued to guard the shopping complexes to prevent further violence and looting,” said the statement.