“This is not who we are as South Africans. This is not us...
"As we confront this challenge, we should remember how – at another time in our history, as we were preparing for democratic change – we came together as a society to end the violence that was rampant in many communities.
"We came together – as religious leaders, traditional leaders, trade unions, businesses, community organisations, political parties, NGOs and others – to bring peace to our nation.
"Now we need to come together again, for each of us to play our part in restoring calm to those areas that have been affected by violence; for each of us to stand up for the rule of law and for the peaceful resolution of conflict."
This was President Cyril Ramaphosa's message to the thousands of rioters who have waged a civil war against his state this past week.
Did his "fellow South Africans" heed his call on Monday night for peace and unity? Not in the slightest.
They continued their march of destruction in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, legions of armed looters causing billions of rands worth of damage, turning whole towns and business districts into flaming wastelands.
Properties, vehicles, trucks, infrastructure and even schools have been wrecked.
Businesses have had to shut down - some indefinitely - in an economy already devastated by the pandemic.
Supply of goods has stopped. As we speak, citizens in KZN are having to queue for basics like bread, medicine and petrol.
At least 70 people are dead and over 1200 people have been arrested.
We are a country at war with itself.
Wake up, Mr President. The unfortunate truth is: This IS who we are as South Africans.
For the past 10 to 15 years, we have seen countless uprisings - lawless mobs running riot is nothing new - just not on this scale.
We've seen them during service delivery protests, during strikes, periods of political unrest, xenophobia and after instances of police brutality.
This time fingers have been pointed at loyal supporters of Jacob Zuma, spies and operatives who are seeking to destabilise the state following the former president's incarceration last week.
This may very well be the source of it.
But let's face it, as long as there is mass poverty, unemployment and economic inequality, there will be unrest.
As long as there is unrest, there will be agent provocateurs who will look to take advantage of the chaos.
And there will be opportunistic criminal elements who will loot and pillage.
Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula admitted as much: "This whole thing morphed into something bigger than Jacob Zuma, it’s a manifestation of a disenfranchised population."
It's true. Poverty, unemployment and inequality are three of the most critical failures of this ANC government.
They simply don’t have the political will to address this.
Least of all, Ramaphosa.
Faced with a civil war, the President has shown that he doesn't have the balls to take action.
It was his moment to make his stem dik, to take charge.
Instead, he could barely bring himself to utter the word “Zuma” on TV on Monday night.
And unfortunately his enemies know that he is weak.
Where were the 25 000 troops when Gauteng and KZN were burning five days ago?
Why did the commander-in-chief not declare a state of emergency there and then?
Where was the decisive leadership we so desperately needed?
By the time the soldiers hit the ground, the army of looters had already sacked cities and moved on.