SA riots escalate

Businesses in crisis mode

13 July 2021 | Africa

Daily Maverick

In the face of a massive escalation of rioting, looting and property damage, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) announced the deployment of soldiers to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng. But business warns that the economic fallout will be high if the destruction is not swiftly contained.

Yesterday morning, the fourth day of violence following the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, private security firms were encouraging owners of businesses on the R103 from Heidelberg to Johannesburg to close their gates, lock their businesses and evacuate as looters and others intent on damaging properties and businesses made their way up the road.

Elsewhere in KZN, retailers reported extensive damage to property.

Massmart reported that looters had gained access to and made off with merchandise from seven Massmart-owned stores, while Dis-Chem announced that it was closing its pharmacies, vaccination sites and drive-through testing stations in the KZN area due to the unrest.

Spar also closed several stores in the area. Roads were closed in and around eThekwini, with reports of shots being fired.

In Soweto, there are reports of shopping malls and retail outlets being looted. One of the shopping malls is Dobsonville Mall in Soweto, which is owned and operated by JSE-listed real estate company Vukile Property Fund.

Vukile CEO Laurence Rapp told Business Maverick that the shopping mall was looted and damaged overnight – from Sunday, 11 July.

Rapp said Vukile has decided to close the mall and others in high-risk areas such as Daveyton (in Ekurhuleni) and KZN on Monday, 12 July.

“We are now in crisis mode as we are managing the situation on an hourly basis,” Rapp said.

Police not managing

“The primary approach is to turn to the police for security. Our shopping mall managers are engaging with the police to provide additional security. Police, on their own, are not managing to keep protestors at bay.”

“This is worrying. The Soweto community will need these amenities to be up and running tomorrow.”

Growthpoint Properties, another large real estate company on the JSE, has reported damage to its City Mall in KZN.

CEO Estienne de Klerk said the company will have to spend money repairing the damage and hiring more security personnel to safeguard its shopping malls. “This is disappointing. Shopping malls fulfil an important role in society from a job creation and supply chain point of view. And all of this has now been damaged,” he said.

He warned that the riots will have a chilling effect on future investments in South Africa.

Pure criminality

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry condemned the violence, the looting of businesses, damage to property and intimidation, and the victimisation of people.

“The right to peaceful protest is one of the fundamental rights in our constitutional democracy. What we are experiencing now with this violence… is pure criminality by… gangs who are masquerading as protesters. There is no legitimate protest that is based on breaking and entering business premises to steal goods and damage property,” the Chamber said in a statement.