‘Please protect our lives, economic infrastructure, property and business’

The Small Business Institute (SBI) has strongly condemned the wanton looting of businesses, destruction of vital economic infrastructure, burning of trucks and blockading of roads, primarily in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

“We also call on law-enforcement agencies to urgently protect lives, property and businesses which have become the main target of the ongoing violence,” John Dludlu of the SBI said.

“While our Constitution guarantees the right of every South African to protest, we find the violence visited on ordinary people, property, trucks and business premises completely indefensible,” Dludlu said.

He said the SBI was shocked and concerned that law-enforcement agencies, especially intelligence services, had allowed the situation to develop for weeks ahead of the Constitutional Court judgment on June 29.

“The response has been slow, fragmented and woefully inadequate. This is completely unacceptable, and South Africans and economic operators especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) deserve protection from the official security services,” Dludlu said.

“It is very concerning that the mayhem which began in KwaZulu-Natal, supposedly in protest at the incarceration of the former president of the ruling party, has been allowed to spread to other parts of our country causing billions worth of damage to the economy.”

He said even if the proposition that the protests were an expression of rejection of the former ANC president’s arrest and imprisonment was correct, it had become clear that the protests have been hijacked by an organised criminal element.

“As well as claiming the lives of people, the mayhem threatens to worsen unemployment, poverty, hunger and inequality and food security of millions of South Africans. The damage to supply chains will delay the badly needed economic recovery and reconstruction and dampen investor sentiment,” Dludlu said.

“Also, if not immediately arrested, the mayhem will undermine the fight against the covid-19 pandemic. This should not be allowed.

“We call on government to ensure law-enforcement agencies to protect lives, critical economic infrastructure such as shopping malls and public roads as well as trucks,” he said.

“While welcome as a temporary measure to stabilise the situation, the deployment of the national army to our streets will not provide a durable solution.”

The SBI appealed to government to work with business and other social partners in addressing this crisis.

“For its part, the ruling party – in whose name some of the protesters claim to be protesting – needs to rein in its supporters,” Dludlu said.