Business leaders in Durban are crying out for more decisive action to curb the widespread looting and anarchy in KwaZulu-Natal.
Despite Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula saying during a security cluster briefing on Tuesday that it isn’t necessary to declare a state of emergency in the country, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry reiterated calls for the province to at least get the emergency declaration.
“As organised businesses we urgently call upon President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a state of emergency in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, as this disorderly behaviour continues to spiral out of control,” chamber president Nigel Ward said on Tuesday night.
While he welcomed the arrest of 757 people linked to looting and the destruction of property in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, he bemoaned the lack of visible policing in greater Durban.
“Businesses are still being looted as we speak [and] the South African National Defence Force [SANDF] that was deployed has not been seen in our communities,” said Ward, who is also executive vice president of manufacturing at Toyota South Africa.
“Businesses in the city are being set alight and the situation is now completely out of control,” he said.
“We cannot waste any more time as law enforcement is not coping with the current situation. As organised business we have been calling for the president to act and deploy more SANDF [troops] to assist our law enforcement agencies in a situation that is beyond their means.”
Ward’s sentiments were echoed by another business stalwart in the city, Mike Jackson, a former Durban Chamber deputy president and former head of Tsogo Sun Hotels in KwaZulu-Natal.
“We need to raise the alarm with the president – Durban virtually has no SANDF and the SA Police Service [SAPS] cannot stop the looting in the city,” Jackson told Moneyweb on Tuesday night.
“Television news channel eNCA has just been showing visuals and commenting how there are no SAPS around. All day eNCA have been showing Makro being looted and shopping centres in Newlands East with commentators saying no army, no police,” he said.
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“I have a picture of the army in Ballito where there is no looting yet. What about Durban? This situation is so bad and is not getting stopped in Durban.
“We cannot buy food in Durban, the few Spar supermarkets that were open were closed by SAPS Durban North today at 12 noon for fear of looters and thousands of paying customers were turned away,” Jackson added.
“We need some serious strong-arm policing and the army to scare looters and rioters off. We need a curfew of 17:00 and not 21:00.
“We need a state of emergency declared tonight,” he said.
“We cannot have President Ramaphosa just making statements, we need swift action.”
Meanwhile, Ward reiterated that “the only solution to arrest the problem at hand is for the president to declare a state of emergency and have heavy presence of all security and law enforcement agencies visible.
“The City of Durban, the province and the country cannot afford another 24 hours of looting, property being destroyed, food being stolen, business owners and employees losing another day of work.
“We will be headed towards a catastrophic state as a country. Now more than ever the private and public sector need to work together to achieve stability at all costs,” said the Durban chamber president.
The South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa) has also called for greater action to arrest the situation.
“It is clear from [the] escalation of looting and destruction of retail outlets and shopping centres in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal that shopping centres are being targeted and are first in line with regards to looting,” said Sapoa CEO Neil Gopal.
“This anarchy has resulted in well over R10 billion worth of damage,” he added.
“Even though President Ramaphosa appealed on Monday night for calm and has authorised the deployment of 2 500 SANDF personnel, these security measures are simply not enough to quell this level of violence and destruction of private property,” said Gopal.
“We appeal to the presidency to significantly increase the number of soldiers to be deployed with immediate effect.”
“Disturbingly, we are also seeing food distribution centres in Durban being looted and destroyed. This will further exacerbate the crisis and have lasting implications on our food security and the food chain in general,” he added.
“Even if we can get distribution centres to deliver to our supermarkets, it will not be possible for the public to purchase goods at malls that have already been burnt and vandalised, or simply closed due to threats of violence.
“We are also alarmed that citizens are now arming themselves in an attempt to protect their own property. This is not surprising in the absence of policing, but it is a dangerous situation if not brought under control.”
Sapoa called upon the presidency to urgently implement the following measures:
- Increase the deployment of more soldiers with immediate effect;
- Declare certain areas of the economy like the ports, hospitals, clinics, food distribution centres, communications towers, shopping centres etcetera as key national points to be guarded by the military;
- Restore law and order;
- Ensure that soldiers and the SAPS keep citizens in their communities and that citizens stay indoors;
- Ensure that the Covid-19 vaccination programme is back on track; and that
- Law enforcement agencies act swiftly and decisively against the perpetrators of violence and unlawful acts.
* Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.