South Africa descended into chaos just hours after Saajida Manjra left the country with her 3-year-old son to reunite with her Whangārei-based husband.
She considers herself lucky to be back living with husband Nadim Dasoo in a different part of the world than their homeland which is gripped by protests and a frenzy of looting and arson following the recent arrest of former President Jacob Zuma.
Soldiers continue to patrol badly hit neighbourhoods devastated by a week of anarchy that left more than 300 people dead.
Dasoo, a civil engineer, hails from South Africa and has been working under work to residency visa conditions in Whangārei for over one year.
Manjra, with son Imran Dasoo, flew into Auckland on June 29 and after a period in quarantine, reunited with her husband after 17 months of living apart.
Manjra was initially granted a dependent work visa just before the Covid-19 lockdown last year and could not enter New Zealand due to border restrictions.
She has had to reapply for the visa this year, and under the border exemptions, she managed to get into the country in June.
Manjra considered herself lucky to have had left their home country, just in time to avoid the political unrest and violence and level 4 lockdown.
"When I left, things were particularly very bad in Gauteng, but not so much in the area that we were living in KwaZulu-Natal.
"Things had gotten really bad, just hours after I left the country, and for two weeks the country was under complete lockdown.
"The day I got out of the MIQ facility, riots had just begun and things were complete chaos back at home.
"It was very stressful to watch the news, see the media footage of mayhem in the country."
Manjra had no idea how things were going to pan out before she left and said there were warnings circulating in various communities of potential riots erupting in the country. While some took them seriously, others did not believe and continued with their lives.
One of Dasoo's close friends lost everything in the uproar, including his business and property.
Dasoo said there was a strong anti-Indian sentiment prevailing in particular regions of the country and it frightened him knowing his family was still back in South Africa.
Indians first arrived in South Africa in the late 1800s as indentured labourers and make up 2.6 per cent of South Africa's population. The majority of them live in KwaZulu-Natal.
Manjra believed they were fortunate to have had the opportunity to move to New Zealand, while many others did not and were living in constant fear.
"The current situation only indicates that the crime will go up from here and I cannot even comprehend how difficult it is for many families. And with the pandemic circling the globe, it is just a bad situation everywhere in the country.
"Luckily, our families are mostly doing fine. The looters broke into my brother-in-law's business, but not much harm was done.
"Many small businesses in the city that rely on daily income have lost everything in the riots."
Since moving to Whangārei, Manjra said was enjoying the climate and getting used to the weather was the biggest adjustment.
"We are just trying to sort the house and haven't been around the region much. So far, from what I've seen, it is a very beautiful place and so green. The community here is very warm and welcoming."
A series of protests started on the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands about three weeks ago and spread to the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
The protest shifted to looting, targeting supermarkets in Durban's townships and small businesses in the city's centre.
South Africa is beginning to return to normal but the human, economic, and political cost of the riots is still being tallied.