FIFI PETERS: We are still on the story regarding the unrest that we have seen in the country in the recent days. This, of course, comes shortly after we saw the incarceration of the former president of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma.
Earlier today, the Durban Chamber of Commerce called on President Ramaphosa to declare a state of disaster in KZN and to deploy the national army to help police tackle the sporadic cases of unrest and looting in the province. Since then the SA National Defence Force, the SANDF, has sent its forces to quell tensions in some parts of the country.
For an update ahead of the address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on this very issue later this evening I’m joined by Gladwin Malishe, who is the deputy president of the Durbin Chamber of Commerce. Gladwin, thanks so much for joining the show. Just give us an update of what the situation in KZN looks like presently.
GLADWIN MALISHE: Thanks Fifi, and good evening to your listeners. The situation is still tense on the ground. We finished our meeting two hours ago with the premier and his MECs, just to look at what is happening on the ground right now. We are receiving reports that there are places that they are still going to go and loot from. As we speak, some of the shopping centres in Maritzburg have been reached. So there is a lot that is still happening.
There is also a list of other places which are out on social media that they [the looters] are saying they’ll be hitting tonight. It means that even tonight we’ll still have a very active night of protecting businesses around Durban.
FIFI PETERS: But then since the call for backup in the form of the SANDF, that backup has been deployed. How would you describe the impact of the deployment of the SANDF so far?
GLADWIN MALISHE: I would like to first and foremost maybe clarify, because we’ve been getting some calls that some people are worried that when we have the SANDF we are actually putting the country at risk of civil war. We as the Durban Chamber saw the need of having the army to be in certain areas where we see that police are very stressed.
For instance, the MP, where we need the logistic to be moving, we really need to have all of our protection services or law enforcement on the N3. Right now, if we don’t, we are not getting supplies to our bakeries and food factories; it means in the next 72 hours there’ll be no food in our stores. Hence we call on the army to come and assist to make sure that there’s law and order.
At the same time we have actually asked the politicians if they could sit around the table and find a lasting solution to this. This is the reason why we have actually called on the army. We have seen the army in Pietermaritzburg; there was a little bit of quiet in the CBD. So the looting is happening on the outskirts of the town.
But on the Durban side we can still see that the looting is still going on. We haven’t seen much of the army being deployed but our MEC from [Community] Safety and Liaison is actually dealing with that to work with them to see where we should deploy the army, because we need to make sure that the army is not here to do something that could actually damage us further, but to make sure there’s law and order.
FIFI PETERS: I think no one wants war at any stage in our lives. But, Gladwin, are you aware of what the motive behind this unrest is?
GLADWIN MALISHE: Well, in our statement as the Durban Chamber we said we can’t confirm or deny – we are hearing rumours that it’s due to the incarceration of former president Mr Jacob Zuma. Others are saying it’s just a criminal element; so there are a number of things.
We as business choose to say we won’t get involved in describing who exactly is doing what, but all we know is that we are in the middle of the pandemic.
We have suffered through the lockdown, businesses are not doing well. We can’t take any chances. If we take chances, it means our revenue collection will actually [decline.] If it [declines] it means our own government won’t be able to provide services to our communities, which will actually create more problems.
So we decided not to get involved in the politics of who’s doing what, but to say to the politicians, when you do manifestos and say you’re going to create jobs, it’s because you are relying on business to create employment. So business is telling you that we need a very safe and peaceful environment to trade. As to what is happening, if there are issues – we were able to defeat the apartheid government – it means today you can still sit down and find a solution. So that’s the message we are actually giving to the government.
FIFI PETERS: Are you at this stage able to quantify the economic impact of the unrest so far? How much has this cost the KZN economy in terms of damage?
GLADWIN MALISHE: We are still quantifying the damage.
If you look at the trucks that were burned, you are looking at something over R115 million. And if you look at the impact on the shopping centres, something more than R1 billion, because [for] the N2 warehouse which was looted during the day, we are talking about stock worth more than R100 million.
So it runs into billions of rands. That’s money that we don’t have as business, and we don’t think our government has money to assist business to start again.
So the quantification is being on the government side, also on the business side, looking at that. But let me just give you another one. Some of these shopping centres in our townships, the owners of those shopping centres have taken money from the banks. They have taken bonds on them. So who’s going to go back there and rent? It means those guys now are owing the bank. So it’s bigger than quantifying the losses our eyes see. It’s huge losses by different businesses.
FIFI PETERS: As you said, it’s very difficult to pinpoint this on the recent political developments, referring specifically to the jailing of the former president because, if you listen to what the South African Chamber of Commerce says, they say that a lot of this unrest and the disruption to businesses has been taking place for some time now. I’m looking at what has been happening also throughout the various lockdowns.
Ahead of the President’s address later this evening, what kind of political message are you expecting or do you think the President needs to deliver to finally put an end to the problems that we are seeing right now?
GLADWIN MALISHE: We’re actually hoping and praying that he gives us a speech that will find a very sound solution to the issues that we are faced with. We are not sure of the advice the president is getting, but if he needs to get more information he needs to be on the ground where we are, and we can tell him exactly what is happening in order for him to see how we can actually intervene. But we do believe the best intervention would be for the parties to sit down, whether it’s the opposition party and the ruling party, but they need to come together as leaders, because they are leaders who are coming from the communities. So whatever the solution is, it is within them as politicians. And it is important that it is a solution that comes as quickly as possible. He has a chance today to deliver a speech that could actually change the situation on the ground, so we are praying that he does that.
FIFI PETERS: I think many of us are doing the same. Gladwin, we’ll leave it there for now. Thanks so much for your time. Gladwin Malishe, the deputy president of the Durban Chamber of Commerce.