Various organisations have spoken out about the riots, vandalism and looting that have been taking place across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in recent days and warn that these actions will have a significant impact on South Africa's already struggling economy.
Business chamber the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) has condemned “in the strongest terms” the looting of businesses, damage to property and intimidation and victimisation of people, which has flared up following the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma.
"While the right to peaceful protest is one of the fundamental rights in our constitutional democracy, what we are experiencing now with this violence that is targeted at looting and damaging public infrastructure, is pure criminality by marauding 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 organisation asserts.
Sacci further calls on all political and community leaders to refrain from making utterances that are fuelling the situation and for people to stop spreading stories that are not true on social media platforms.
“The mischaracterisation of marauding criminal gangs whose sole intent is to use the cover of a ‘political protest’ narrative, as ‘protesters’ is both unfortunate and misleading. The media should avoid giving legitimacy to criminals by calling them protesters,” Sacci says.
The organisation also urges the police to act decisively and arrest and urgently prosecute perpetrators.
Sacci says the image of South Africa as an investment destination is being damaged.
It notes that business has been the main target and that this must stop, as the country’s economy is struggling and this will further add to unemployment and delay implementation of South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
“We also note that, whatever the grievance may be, this violent destruction of business, property and the intimidation of truck drivers, closure of major arterial roads, burning of trucks and damage to business equipment has been happening intermittently now for many months and precedes any recent Constitutional Court ruling against former President Jacob Zuma.
“Law enforcement should get to the bottom of this instigation as a matter of urgency, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these violent criminal acts,” Sacci emphasises.
Business Unity South Africa (Busa) comments that the actions of a small group of people have caused significant economic damage and that the ongoing violence and destruction of property continues to cause severe losses to the economy.
It posits that the resultant loss of jobs because of businesses not having the confidence to continue operating will exacerbate an already high unemployment rate.
"These events are being reported on globally, resulting in significant loss of confidence in our country as an investment destination, at a time when we are competing with more positive destinations in different parts of the world," Busa states.
It has also welcomed the mobilisation of the military and urged people to refrain from taking the law into their hands.
"The looting and mindless destruction of property is alarming. This is inflicting further damage to the economy which is already teetering on the precipice and is 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 fuels the spread of the virus," adds Business Leadership South Africa CEO Busi Mavuso.
Meanwhile, professional body the Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) joined the widespread call being made by organised business in South Africa for calm heads to prevail and for law enforcement authorities to act swiftly and arrest perpetrators.
It adds that this is the time for government to show stronger leadership; to continue condemning those responsible; and to engage soonest, if possible, with renegade political elements who might be behind this violence.
The IRMSA also advises members and business in general to urgently reappraise their current risk strategies with specific reference to staff safety, building and factory security and insurance cover.
"The economic trickle-down impact of the violence will be felt immediately as supply chains are disrupted. It is important that suppliers and customers are appraised instantly should your business be impacted.
"While many people are still working from home due to the Covid-19 adjusted Level 4 regulations, we advise that companies engage with unions and staff associations to gauge current workplace sentiment with a view to addressing concerns swiftly and collegially," the body advises.
IRMSA chief risk adviser Christopher Palm advises that risk committees meet as soon as possible to discuss implementation and management strategies given there is no indication of when the violence will be brought under control.
"IRMSA professionals are on standby to assist with any risk-related queries and ask that you do all you can to maintain safety and calm in the workplace," the organisation states.
Also commenting was the South African Insurance Association (Saia), which has called for extreme caution and calm during this time.
"South Africa is faced with a possibility that these protests may linger on for some time. Therefore, we would like to urge businesses, motorists and the public to exercise extreme caution and prioritise safety by considering other safer alternatives. Motorists are urged to study their routes before departure and factor in alternative routes if they are traveling into or around impacted areas.
Citizens are encouraged to liaise with trusted sources of information to make better travel arrangements, while prioritising safety by traveling only when it is safe, or necessary to do so," Saia says.
“There will be no winners if we continue destroying our own country, our businesses and infrastructure, we will all be losers. In times such as the war against an invisible enemy, Covid-19, we need to work together to rebuild and not compound the problem.”
"We are calling on government to act expeditiously, as we will, in no time, face a serious threat to the availability of key necessities that people depend on, with this violence becoming more widespread. We cannot afford to allow anything to impede the continued and much needed roll out of our country’s vaccine programme in our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic," adds Consulting Engineers South Africa CEO Chris Campbell.
Meanwhile, agricultural industry organisation Agri SA notes that the situation is also affecting the agriculture sector at the peak of the citrus production season, with large volumes of citrus to the value of about R592-million having to be transported weekly to the Durban harbour.
"Any disruption could lead to financial losses for producers and will prevent the products from reaching international markets on times," Agri SA president Pierre Vercueil says.
The organisation adds it has also received reports that sugarcane fields and other crops have been set alight in KwaZulu-Natal. It notes that the situation has also affected livestock farmers whose feedstocks have been set alight, while various sawmills have also been closed.
The National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc), meanwhile, says that the economy will take years to recover from the effect of the looting and vandalism of the past few days.
"The people who will feel the most impact are township, semi-urban and rural area residents who will now have to travel far to buy basic goods, to collect grants and to access other services. The people who had been employed in vandalised and burnt down malls and shopping malls will lose their jobs.
"The rand has lost significant value and investors will be skeptical to invest in our economy in the future. The saddest part is that the country was still trying to recover from the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and attendant lockdowns," it states.
The Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) says it expects the loss in trade to be substantial.
"The township economy over the last few years, has become the cornerstone of employment and business development. This criminal activity will erase the gains made over the years and devastate the very same communities who stand to benefit."
“We understand that this is more than just the reflection of anger by some in our communities against the incarceration of the former President. It appears that criminal elements have taken advantage of the situation and exploited it for their own ends.
“We are facing an already trying time in business and as a nation. Jobs are at stake and ongoing violence will only lead to more businesses shutting down and increase job losses. We appeal to those engaged in violence to cease and those acting against it to do so within the bounds of the law,” JCCI president Shawn Theunissen comments.
Sakeliga, meanwhile, says communities are suffering under the weight of chronically bad economic policy and an accelerating failure of the State to uphold order and that, if it was not the jailing of Zuma, something else would have eventually triggered the unrest currently taking place.
"Sakeliga has warned on multiple occasions since March 2020 of the tail risk of lockdowns and its deep social destabilisation sure to cause lasting devastating effects.
"These effects were never going to play out only in short-term job losses and declines in income, but also in longer-term social stresses, resource constraints, capital depletion, sustained joblessness and rising lawlessness. Lockdowns wreak havoc with complex social systems and, therefore, risk creating unpredictable and compounded problems for communities and businesses," the organisation states.
It says government should urgently lift lockdown regulations, "thereby allowing people to work for a living, restore the motions of everyday social and commercial interaction, and secure their livelihoods in an orderly fashion, managing their Covid-19 risks in a personal and decentralised manner".