KwaZulu-Natal cannot afford this, nor can the rest of SA

Food security and exports are at risk because of what’s happening in a province that contributes 16% to GDP, largely through agriculture.
There are already reports of food shortages in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and this will intensify due to the impact of the unrest on production and logistics. Image: Shutterstock

Agri SA has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a state of emergency in KwaZulu-Natal and to empower the police and defence force to restore law and order in the province.

Read: Durban chamber sends another SOS to Ramaphosa

“KwaZulu-Natal is a very big and important producer of agricultural products and vital for food security in SA,” says Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA.

“In addition, the Durban port is vital for the export of agricultural produce and a lot of large producers have warehouses in the area to facilitate exports.

“The unrest is also hampering the distribution of necessary products farmers need to produce and package products,” says Van der Rheede, adding that the closure of oil refineries in the area might lead to petrol and diesel shortages.

In fact, the largest oil refinery in SA, the South African Petroleum Refineries (Sapref), has already announced the temporary closure of its refinery in Durban due to the unrest. Sapref produces more than a third of SA’s fuel, with the Automobile Association saying that its closure might lead to fuel shortage “within days”.

‘Serious threat’ to food security and exports

Van der Rheede says that the “criminal conduct is affecting agriculture amid the peak citrus production season, with large volumes of citrus – to the value of approximately 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 time.

“The looting of shops, stoning of cars, blocking of roads and the burning of trucks and crops, as well as theft of livestock, are posing a serious threat to food security in the country.

“SA runs the risk of people not being able to buy or access food,” says Van der Rheede, adding that there are already reports of food shortages in KwaZulu-Natal.

“The situation South Africa is experiencing at present no longer has anything to do with peaceful protest but is being exploited to destroy the country’s infrastructure and threaten the lives of ordinary citizens,” says Van der Rheede.

Read: Samsung, Mustek among tech firms targeted in KZN anarchy

Cane fields burnt, sugar mills shut

Reports of the burning of sugar cane plantations and other crops have been confirmed, as well as the hijacking of trucks.

Abigail Moyo, spokesperson of trade union Uasa, says the union is “devastated” by the closure of KwaZulu-Natal sugar mills as a consequence of the violence and looting in the province.

“We are concerned about union members employed on sugar cane farms who may lose their jobs if nothing is done to bring the situation under control.

“Approximately 300 000 tons of cane has been lost to arson during the current protests,” says Moyo.

“The local sugar industry was under threat from international imports over the last few years and now, just as the sector was stabilising through the interventions of farmers and government, they have to face the threat from fellow South Africans.

“We also urge South African to keep the welfare of fellow citizens in mind before engaging in mindless violence and looting,” says Moyo.

“We need to stand together as a nation; not destroy what we have achieved since democracy.”

Urgent calls

Uasa has also pledged its support to government and called on authorities to get the situation in KwaZulu-Natal (and Gauteng) under control.

“The unrest and looting are already costing the country more than it can afford,” Uasa warned in an urgent release sent to 116 media outlets and news services.

“We fear massive job losses which may lead to further unrest.”

Read: Pro-Zuma protests spread to Johannesburg


Tongaat Hulett, SA’s largest sugar producer with vast plantations in KwaZulu-Natal, reported on Wednesday that it has closed all of its sugar mills in the province.

Tongaat had published its latest annual financial results only 48 hours earlier, with management saying that it looked forward to catching up on milling and refining sugar cane left standing from the previous year after Covid-19 restrictions limited milling throughput.

The importance of Tongaat to the province can be seen in the fact that the company employs more than 3 100 people in SA, almost all of them in KwaZulu-Natal.

It produces around R6 billion worth of sugar in SA and, according to its latest annual report, spends nearly R100 million per annum on social projects – again mostly in KwaZulu-Natal.

Read: Tongaat not out of the woods yet

KZN and the greater economy

KwaZulu-Natal is important in SA and for SA from an economic point of view.

According to figures from Statistics SA, the province produces around 16% of the country’s output and is the largest contributor to gross domestic product after Gauteng and the Western Cape.

Agriculture is especially important.

The province produces a wide range of crops and livestock – ranging from sugar cane, pineapples and vegetables to sheep, cattle and chicken.

It produces more than 600 000 tons of maize per annum. This is only some 5% of the country’s total maize production, but it still amounts to a lot of plates of food.

Figures also show that KwaZulu-Natal and its people cannot afford the destruction of property and infrastructure, especially the loss of farms and food. A survey measuring the importance of agriculture by Stats SA found that 18% of households in the province are involved in the agricultural sector.


In addition, the area has a big population. The latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey from Stats SA puts the adult population at 7.29 million, with the majority – some 4.75 million adults – staying in rural areas. Fewer than 2.5 million of the population are employed, with one million classified as unemployed and 3.8 million classified as not active in the economy.

The province’s expanded unemployment rate increased to 46.4% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 43% a year ago.

The unemployment rate in KwaZulu-Natal is among the highest of all the provinces in SA, just less than the Eastern Cape (49.6%) and Limpopo (47.5%).

It is clear that looters, protesters and instigators cannot afford to damage the economy any further.

Read: Stores close across SA as violent riots intensify

Consequences of inaction

“SA runs the risk of people not being able to buy or access food,” says Van der Rheede.

“This will lead to hunger and starvation on a national scale, which in turn [could] fuel even more social unrest and mayhem.

“It is clear that criminals have no regard for law and order and that they will loot, destroy and steal non-stop until there is nothing left.

“SA is a constitutional state, and our Constitution places a constitutional obligation on the state to protect its citizens against such criminality,” he says, reiterating his call for a national state of emergency.

Read: Food security in African cities needs a fresh approach

Listen to Nompu Siziba’s interview with Agbiz economist Wandile Sihlobo in March (or read the transcript here):



Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in and an Insider Gold subscriber to comment.


‘They’ burnt down a fertilizer factory. The chances of this factory reopening is very slim. All the workers will loose their jobs. But don’t worry, the farmers can import fertilizer. If the harbor can manage imports?

A number of large corporates have already indicated their intent to relocate their facilities — Thoroughly deserved by these fools to be without work !!!

Politics web points out that 76000 members of SANDF were deployed during the first lockdown, but 2500 belatedly deployed to quell the looting.

Most scenes we saw on TV was of a looting orgy with zero police on screen.


Because the rest of the SANDF were busy looting with impunity.

Mainly because the police are part of the problem !!!

I suspect that the looters are the usual petty everyday criminals.
It does not represent South Africa.

Look how much good the Taxi drivers are doing in protecting shopping malls?
Because they are paying off their Taxis, they know that if there is no shopping mall then they lose business and go down also.

I am seeing a different South Africa, a business smart South Africa.

Did u see the chopper footage of the malls being looted!? Did u see the millions of ants all joining……. Did u see the news footage about the main highway having the biggest traffic jam in the last 20 years, with every bakkie and state police vehicle on there way to fetch a flat screen!????
…… Let’s let this minority myth finally die. It’s the majority.

Here in cape Town when u break down on the n2….. With in minutes of stopping u get robbed, stabbed and whatever else….if it was only the minority involved ud have to be waiting a good couple hours till that minority totsi finds u….. Neh!???

Have you seen the photograph on NEWS24 of the “grand entrance” the army made into Pietermaritzburg? A few soldiers on top of an overloaded old army bakkie. There is your answer. We do not have an army anymore. If they do not have proper vehicles to deploy 2500 soldiers, how will they deploy 70000? What a disgrace!

The SAPS and SANDF are missing in action. The looting in KZN is still ongoing today (Thursday) almost one week after it started and there is no control of the situation. Makes you ask 1) who is in charge of the armed forces 2) are they just too busy smuggling illegal cigarettes for NDZ across the border?

and Cele couldn’t wait to confront beach goers!

Ja but he is built for Baywatch remember !!!

and the protesters at Senekal.

whites are a bigger treat hahaha!

The ANC is rudderless and therefore so is SA. The party that installed Zuma, corruption, mismanagement and consequenceless ineptitude has brought this sad state of affairs unon us.

The ANC is just a bunch of factional thieves and they will never be able to provide anf form of security or policing to prevent recurrences if this type looting.

The agent provocotuers within the ANC are there stoking the fires and the ANC know who they are.

SA can only come right if the ANC leaves office.

This a great test to see if all that tax money allocated to the Zulu monarchy and chiefs are worthwhile. If the king and chiefs can’t talk some sense into their people (and help identify the looters) why bother to pay for the system.

You have a very good point.

Why do we have Kings in South Africa? and Chiefs? what value do they add?

Are we not all one nation? one President , one country, one constitution?

I want my Tax money back.

Cyril’s response to the mayhem and savagery will be his most majestic paralysis yet.

Having spent almost all of his presidency trying to appease the thugs and gangsters in his beloved movement the citizens of the country will now pay the price for his divided loyalties.

At the end of it all the ANC will pat itself on the back for having finally implemented one of their plans, even if it was conceived and executed by the “bad” comrades.

They are paid to ensure that their subjects vote for the governing party.

It’s another form of social grant, called royalties.

End of comments.




Instrument Details  

You do not have any portfolios, please create one here.
You do not have an alert portfolio, please create one here.

Follow us:

Search Articles:
Click a Company: