The South African business community is concerned about the economic losses amid the mayhem and unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng triggered when former president Jacob Zuma began serving his 15-month jail sentence.
Business Unity South Africa (Busa) chief executive Cas Coovadia warned yesterday that the loss of jobs as a result of businesses not having the confidence to continue operating would exacerbate an already high unemployment rate.
Coovadia said the protests would have a negative impact on efforts to put South Africa onto a sustainable inclusive growth path and hamper efforts to address the severe social and economic challenges faced by the country. “The impact on society of these acts of anarchy is also severe,” Coovadia said.
Zuma’s supporters set trucks alight on Saturday in KwaZulu-Natal, severely affecting road freight transportation on the N3, near Mooi River.
The lawlessness escalated on Sunday when looters targeted retail shops for alcohol, groceries, clothing and electronic appliances and torched shopping centres, leaving a trail of destruction. The looting was despite President Cyril Ramaphosa issuing a stern warning that police would jail those responsible.
Shoprite, Africa’s biggest food retailer, yesterday castigated the violent protests. Shoprite, which owns Shoprite, Checkers and Shoprite Liquor outlets, said the violence was especially damaging after the dire impact of the Covid-19-pandemic on the economy.
“We denounce the criminal acts of violence, looting and damage to property. It puts the lives and safety of millions of South Africans at risk and brings further food security challenges in South Africa,” the chain said.
Shoprite said several of its stores in KZN and Gauteng were unable to trade due to the extensive damage caused over the past 24 hours, impacting the livelihoods of millions of people.
Massmart spokesperson Brian Leroni said that on Sunday and yesterday protesters had gained access to, and made off with, merchandise from seven Massmart-owned stores including four Cambridge Food outlets, a Game, Makro and Cash & Carry outlet.
Massmart, which also owns Builder Warehouse outlets, said it was currently assessing the impact of the incidents and would provide an update.
“The situation is fluid and we are monitoring it closely,” Leroni said.
The Consumer Goods Council of SA (CGSA) said it was concerned about the potential impact of the disruptions on food security and supply chain issues.
“This is because factories will not be able to produce, resulting in food shortages, which will affect the most vulnerable and poor most.” It was also concerned that small retailers and independents were also being targeted, “and where will people in townships get food when everything is destroyed?”