Bay of Plenty residents with family in South Africa are experiencing sleepless nights as riots and looting unfold following former President Jacob Zuma's imprisonment.
The rioting by Zuma's supporters began in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal last week and spread to Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city.
Rotorua resident Linda De Klerk said her sister-in-law lived in a gated community in Durban and had an escape plan ready.
"After [the rioters] finished with the malls and took whatever they could there, there was the fear of them going into these gated communities and starting to invade people's houses."
De Klerk said the estate had quite a few entry points and the entire community was connected on Whatsapp.
"The ones who were near the gates were very vigilant. They would then send messages via the Whatsapp and Facebook forums telling people, 'Get in your car, have your bag ready with your most valuable possessions and get out of the estate via one of the gates where it's still safe to exit'.
"The plan was definitely not to stay and try to defend it."
She said in other cases, private citizens had been taking matters into their own hands to defend their own properties and businesses.
"We've had sleepless nights since this all started."
Fellow Rotorua resident Gavin Long has family in Gauteng.
"They are very scared because it's pretty hectic at the moment - quite a few people have died already," he said.
"The violence is extreme – we haven't seen this since the 1990s."
Long said the Covid-19 lockdown paired with the riots was a "double whammy".
"Now you've got people rioting in the streets destroying the shops ... [it's] very difficult for them to keep safe and eat."
Long said inequalities of the past were still very much a part of South Africa.
"What you're seeing here is a reaction to poverty [and] unemployment ... there are a lot of frustrated people there and it doesn't take much to spark everything.
"When you've got really little to look forward to and your hope is pretty much gone, when somebody sparks a riot, what have you got to lose?
"You have no job, source of income, food, so jump on the bandwagon."
Pāpāmoa woman Edna Havenga said her daughters were in Cape Town where she said there was "still a measure of safety", but she was "very anxious" about the situation in South Africa.
She said the military was nowhere to be seen in most affected cities.
Civilians had banded together to protect their homes and neighbourhoods, armed with sports equipment and whatever else they could find, she said.
"There is no food, not even milk for babies, no fuel.
"Millions of people in KwaZulu-Natal are trapped in their homes, making desperate pleas for outside help. Highways to these areas are blocked with burning tyres and rocks and a mob armed with pangas [machetes], fuelled by evil intent."
Mount Maunganui resident Jade Daniels said she was "very worried" and could not sleep or eat.
"My two children are affected and have fled our family home. They are with my sister, although it's not much safer in my sister's area.
"From what my children and sister are saying, the police are outnumbered. The mobs have been ransacking police stations.
"My sister's husband has been patrolling their area at night with a few other community members to try and keep their families safe."
Quintin Boshoff, who works in Mount Maunganui, said his wife and children were in Despatch in the Eastern Cape.
"I didn't sleep a wink last night," he said.
"There were riots ... luckily the community and the cops got it under control."
Boshoff said schools were closed because of the Covid-19 lockdown and his wife worked from home.
"They can't go anywhere," he said.
Rotorua Multicultural Council president Margriet Theron, originally from Cape Town, said she had not had any members of the organisation contact her who were worried about family in South Africa.
However, there was "great concern expressed" on Facebook pages she followed, where people were wondering what people in New Zealand could do to help.
"I don't think there's much that we can do – there are prayer meetings being organised for some time over the weekend around New Zealand but apart from that, very little that people seem to be able to do.
"It's the people in KwaZulu-Natal and in Johannesburg who are really suffering.
"[There are] lots of stories about petrol not going to be available because the refinery has been burnt down, food deliveries being disrupted, and people having to go possibly longer distances to get to a supermarket that has not been looted."
Theron said a prayer meeting for "peace in South Africa" was held at the Living Well Church in Rotorua on Thursday night.
South Africans across New Zealand will be gathering on the steps of Parliament in Wellington for a quiet vigil on Monday at midday to raise awareness of the situation in South Africa.
South Africa is the fifth largest source of New Zealand immigrants behind the United Kingdom, China, India and Australia.