Face to face with marauding protesters

  • cover pic
Likud South Africa Chairperson Larry Marks feared for his life this week when he came face to face with protesters in downtown Johannesburg as xenophobic violence spread across Gauteng.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Sep 05, 2019

Marks, a lawyer and long-serving member of the Community Security Organisation (CSO) and the vice chairman of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), sustained serious injuries when the mob threw rocks at his vehicle, smashing him in the face.

He became trapped in his vehicle when the hyped throng of looters in the central business district (CBD) made its way through the city on Monday morning.

The widespread violent attacks on foreign nationals and foreign-owned shops began in areas south of Johannesburg’s city centre at the weekend, and spread to the CBD on Monday, before extending further afield. The wave of violence has resulted in the wanton destruction of countless shops and business premises. Widespread looting has taken place, and cars and properties have been torched.

Marks knew he was in trouble as he drove up the ramp of the underground parking arcade of the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng local division, in Von Wielligh Street, when he sensed approaching protesters.

“As I was exiting the parking, I stared straight into the mob that was running down the street armed with various weapons attacking anything in sight. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, unfortunately,” said a shaken Marks from his hospital bed. Marks underwent surgery this week following the attack.

Fearing for his life, he had very few choices in that moment.

“I could stay put and be a sitting duck; I could try to reverse down the ramp which proved impossible as there were cars behind me on the ramp; or I could try to weave through the crowd. I chose to be a mobile target, which allowed me to exit the danger zone,” he said.

“Before I could move far, the crowd attacked my vehicle with hammers and rocks. My driver’s window was struck with a rock that penetrated through the window, and struck my head and face. I drove quickly away for about three blocks, and turned into another street where it was quiet.”

With blood gushing from his face, Marks’ CSO training and instincts kicked in. “I always carry a basic emergency kit, and applied a pressure dressing to my head and face to stop the bleeding as much as possible as there was blood in my eyes and I was struggling to see,” he said.

“I sent my location pin to a security group on WhatsApp with a message, and it activated a response from various security companies specifically the CSO and EZRA (the medical team of CSO). A member of one of the security groups came into town to extract me and take me to the medical team that was waiting outside the danger zone.”

He said while he waited for assistance, a metro police van drove straight past ignoring him. “Nigerians, Congolese, Pakistani and South African shopkeepers and the general public stood around my car and called for assistance to no avail,” he said.

“A Muslim lady kindly brought me water to drink, and gave me painkillers as well as further first-aid items,” he said.

Eventually, he was taken to safety, and was treated by EZRA and Medi Response before being transported to hospital.

Marks said he felt disappointed and angry “at the total incompetence of the national commissioner and minister of police as they clearly had zero plans to deal with this”.

He said the CSO had activated numerous services which immediately responded to his call. “This community owes a massive debt to the CSO and other services – people who go out of their way to assist.”

Marks is just one of hundreds affected by this week’s sporadic violence which brought pockets of the province to its knees.

At the time of writing, the looting and violence across the province had left five dead. Close to 300 people have been arrested and charged with public violence, arson, theft, and malicious damage to property.

The widespread attacks are believed to be a spill over from last week’s violent xenophobic attacks in Pretoria.

They come in the week of the 28th World Economic Forum on Africa, which opened in Cape Town on Wednesday, and before a state visit to the country by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, whose country’s nationals have been affected.

Meanwhile politicians, law-enforcement officials, and faith leaders have called for calm in the wake of the chaos and destruction.

Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein said, “One of the most encouraging things about our country is that the vast majority of South Africans are hardworking, law-abiding, good people, who want the same things from life. The key to creating the kind of country we all want is to build alliances across religious and racial divides, alliances based on shared values.

“Equality and dignity for all human beings is a key Jewish value. At a time like this we need to recommit ourselves to values of non-racism and embrace the diversity of this country,” he said.

Alana Baranov, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies’ representative on the steering committee of the Hate Crimes Working Group, told the SA Jewish Report that though it was more than 10 years since the harrowing events of the first major wave of xenophobic violence gripped the country, discrimination and violence against foreign nationals remained a daily reality. The group is a multi-sectoral network of non-governmental organisations set up to spearhead advocacy against hate crimes.

“Tragically, none of the lessons of the past have been put into practice. Most of those targeted with hate have fled their home countries in fear of their lives or out of economic desperation to build a better life for their families,” she said.

This week’s violence had come just weeks after the lapsing of the Hate Crimes Bill.

“We have worked tirelessly over the past 10 years to advocate for awareness of hate crimes and the creation and implementation of effective legislation to prevent and combat this scourge. Hate crimes, which include xenophobia and other forms of bigotry such as anti-Semitism and homophobia, are an issue close to the Jewish community due to our own history of discrimination and being treated as outsiders or the ‘other’. Hate-crime legislation also helps our community tackle issues of anti-Semitism.”

It is only by acknowledging prejudice such as anti-Semitism and xenophobia as hate crimes, and putting in place the appropriate legislation, that we can adequately record and police hate crimes; improve the judicial response, and better monitor hate crimes, she said.

The CSO has appealed to the community to avoid the areas affected by violence as the situation remains volatile and unpredictable.

The CSO’s Jevon Greenblatt said the organisation had cautioned schools to avoid taking pupils to areas like townships and the Johannesburg CBD until the situation normalised.

“Who knows where and if further violence will break out. This is a huge concern for us. We have to maintain awareness, and track where the attacks are spreading,” Greenblatt said.

Said Goldstein, “Economic growth alone will not address these problems unless it is coupled with a rejuvenation of values – values of humanity and justice, respect and decency, values that Judaism teaches the world.”


  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
    Toolbar's wrapper 
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.






Follow us on