Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

The cost of looting already exceeds R5 billion

Business organisations have condemned the violence and looting in the country, calling on the government to stop the criminality.

The cost of the looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal already exceeds R5 billion, with more than 800 shops in KZN and 100 in Gauteng looted and burnt, according to the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA).

The CGCSA says it is concerned about the potential impact of the disruptions on food security in the country and various supply chain issues as factories are unable to produce, resulting in food shortages which will mostly affect the most vulnerable and poor.

“The disruption to and closure of key transport routes has affected the supply chain of retail products and medical supplies, including large retail distribution centres that have been looted and burnt. This has affected the availability of food, basic commodities and medical supplies,” GCSA said.

Should these disruptions worsen, shortages in food and medical supplies will follow.

“As the president said, it is important that the situation is brought under control to avoid food insecurity and a shortage of medical supplies across the country.”

CGCSA is also concerned that targeting small retailers and independents in townships will make it difficult for the people who live there to get food when everything is destroyed. The potential impact on business viability and job security is also a serious cause for concern.

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Small Business Institute

The Small Business Institute (SBI) also condemned the wanton looting of businesses, destruction of vital economic infrastructure, burning of trucks and blockading of roads. It called on law enforcement agencies to urgently protect lives, property and businesses.

“We are shocked and concerned that law enforcement agencies, especially intelligence services, have allowed the situation to develop for weeks ahead of the Constitutional Court judgment. The response has been slow, fragmented and woefully inadequate,” the SBI said in a statement.

“This is completely unacceptable and South Africans and economic operators, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), deserve protection by the official security services. Even if the protests are an expression of rejection of the former ANC president’s arrest and imprisonment, it has become clear that the protests have been hijacked by an organised criminal element.”

The SBI says the mayhem threatens to worsen unemployment, poverty, hunger and inequality, as well as the food security of millions of South Africans. “The damage to supply chains will delay the badly needed economic recovery and reconstruction and dampen investor sentiment.”

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South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Alan Mukoki, chief executive officer (CEO) of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) said in a statement that while the right to peaceful protest is one of the fundamental rights in our constitutional democracy, we now experience violence and looting that is pure criminality.

“There is no legitimate protest that is based on breaking and entering business premises to steal goods and damage property.”

SACCI called on political and community leaders to refrain from statements that fuel the situation. “We also call for people to stop spreading false stories on social media platforms. The media should avoid giving legitimacy to criminals by calling them protesters.”

The chamber urged the police to act decisively and arrest and urgently prosecute the perpetrators of this criminality. “The image of South Africa as an investment destination is being damaged by the minute. This will further add to unemployment and delay South Africa’s reconstruction and recovery plan.”

SACCI also pointed out that social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Tik Tok and others have sufficient technology to identify, isolate and ban those users who are spreading fake news and posting content intended to spread violence and promote wanton criminality.

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South African Informal Traders Alliance

The South African Informal Traders Alliance (SAITA) said it unequivocally condemned all acts of wanton destruction of property, wholesale theft and looting seemingly associated with legitimate protest action.

“While thugs and naive residents involved in the mayhem may believe Christmas has come early, the consequences for all of us will indeed be dire. SAITA has hundreds of traders who ply their businesses within the precincts of shopping centres that have been targeted. They have now lost any hope of income.”

SAITA called on the government to immediately make good on the monetary aid promised to informal sector workers and increase the initial amount to R1,000 per person per month during the duration of the lockdown.

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Business Leadership South Africa

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) said it strongly condemned the persistent public violence and attacks on businesses and called on the justice, crime prevention and security cluster to decisively deal with these pure acts of criminality and sheer opportunistic looting by thugs carried out under a ruse of political expediency.

“The looting and mindless destruction of property is alarming. This is inflicting further damage on the economy which is already teetering on the precipice and on the brink of becoming a failed state, further exacerbated by lockdown restrictions. What is happening on the ground seriously undermines the health protocols which unfortunately fuel the spread of the virus,” BLSA CEO Busi Mavuso said.

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