Local news

No showdown as shutdown fears drive cautionary business closures

Despite fears of violence and intimidation, proactive planning and visible policing by the region's security cluster resulted in no serious incidents being reported anywhere.

North Coast roads and businesses went ghostly quiet on Monday in response to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) national shutdown threat.

Businesses closed doors across KwaDukuza, not in sympathy for the EFF’s cause but rather from fear of a repetition of the 2021 riots.

The party called for countrywide protest action to demand an end to loadshedding and the resignation of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

But despite fears of violence and intimidation, proactive planning and visible policing by the region’s security cluster resulted in no serious incidents being reported anywhere. Possible developing flashpoints were attended to speedily.

Shut doors at businesses lined the streets of KwaDukuza on Monday.
Photo: Juan Venter

The normally bustling streets of KwaDukuza’s central business district and its surrounds saw practically every door shut, with only minor foot traffic evident.

Conducting air patrols in the region on Monday, Badul Air Aviation’s Ash Badul said the scenario resembled a Sunday afternoon, with KwaDukuza Mall being especially quiet.

Toward Salt Rock and Ballito, traffic at shopping centres was equally subdued.

The normally busy streets of KwaDukuza on Monday went quiet when most of the town’s shops were closed. Photo; Juan Venter.

At Tiffany’s Shopping Centre, at least 13 stores closed for the day as a cautionary measure, whereas Ballito Junction Regional Mall tenants remained open and trading, albeit far less busy than usual.

Sporadic protest action did occur at several points along the R102 between Groutville and Ntshawini toward KwaDukuza, with roads temporarily closed as authorities intervened and cleared roads of debris.

Sections of Shaka’s Head were also blocked by protesters, with reports of closures further afield towards Maphumulo and Driefontein.

iLembe Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism CEO, Cobus Oelofse, said a number of businesses took a cautious approach.

Authorities busy with clean-up operations at Melville.

“The majority of local retailers in centres such as KwaDukuza opted to close, while national traders opted to remain open amid lackluster trading. An estimated 70% of businesses in the Isithebe industrial hub opted to close,” said Oelofse.

The Isithebe industrial hub is the manufacturing heartland of the iLembe district.

Most businesses based at industrial areas around Shaka’s Head also closed for the long weekend.

“The cooperation between the private and public sectors was exceptionally reassuring, especially against the backdrop of the 2021 unrest. Of further assistance was the lack of support from the taxi industry, which did not support the call for a national shutdown,” he said.

Police conducting a road block at the Umvoti Toll Plaza.

While many businesses shut their doors, for others – especially the hospitality sector – it was business as usual.

According to self-catering letting agency, Cyberview, which covers Ballito, Chaka’s Rock and Salt Rock, the shutdown had little to no impact.

“We were 95% booked,” Inus van Schalkwyk said, noting that a few guests left on Sunday for fear of looting.

Owner of Ballito restaurant Al Pescatore, Trevor Wolf, said they served about 200 tables on Monday.

Recognition must be given to the coordination of community resources, with all parties prepared to act should violence have erupted.

Ward 22 Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson Stuart Weston said role players put together an emergency plan, which was executed under the supervision of CPFs and neighbourhood watches.

“Everyone knew what to do, and it was all done in a professional manner,” said Weston.

Warwick Chapman, of the Greater Ballito Operations Centre, said given what was experienced in July 2021, it was essential to put proactive preparations in place.

“A few people put huge effort behind the scenes over the past year to develop an emergency response plan. What we saw over the past few days was the first time the plan could be put into action. Gratitude must go to all parties for working together to safeguard jobs and lives,” said Chapman.

Morné Steffens of the Ballito Neighbourhood Watch and CPF praised the new Umhlali station commander, colonel Fikile Xulu, for being proactive and coordinating all the role players to ensure a state of readiness.

Tongaat CPF chairperson, Nazir Sadack, said no protests were reported in Tongaat and thanked everyone who stood together to protect their town.

“This is the type of teamwork and collaboration required to achieve success,” said Sadack.

 

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