Vow to crush saboteurs

2019-06-20 15:29
Premier Sihle Zikalala. (Gallo IMages, file)

Premier Sihle Zikalala. (Gallo IMages, file)

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The KZN government, which is under pressure to grow the economy and create jobs, on Wednesday vowed to crush economic saboteurs who have been looting goods, torching trucks and intimidating and extorting building contractors.

Briefing the media in Durban following a provincial cabinet meeting with business represetatives, Premier Sihle Zikalala said the provincial government was no longer prepared to negotiate with individuals who have been holding citizens and businesses to ransom.

“We are not going to allow criminality and lawlessness — we will be working with the police to ensure that those who engage in these unlawful acts are brought to book,” he said.

The meeting between the provincial cabinet and business took place against the backdrop of a spike in unlawful activities in the province ranging from the looting of goods, burning of trucks and intimidation of contractors working on government projects.

Organisations such as the mafia-style business forum Delangokubona, whose members had been invading construction sites and demanding to be given a share of contracts, claimed their conduct was in line with the provincial government’s Radical Economic Transformation (RET) policy.

Speaking at the joint press briefing, Moses Tembe, the chairperson of the KZN Growth Coalition — an umbrella body of business groupings in the province — said the disruption of business activities had been a major concern for business.

The meeting, Tembe said, provided cabinet with the opportunity to explain to business the link between the provincial government’s RET policy and the conduct of organisations that had been disrupting business activities under the guise of RET.

“What came out very clear in the meeting is that RET is not lawlessness. We needed to define RET clearly so that everybody understands what it entails.

“The meeting was an entrenchment of the partnership between business and the community,” he said.

Zikalala, who was sworn in as premier a few weeks ago, said groups that had been intimidating contractors working on government projects have hijacked government’s RET to justify their criminal activities.

“RET is about lending support to businesses from previously disadvantaged communities. The disruption of businesses is certainly not RET. That is thuggery, it’s hooliganism,” he said.

The havoc created by the “business forums”, who claim to be representing people who should be the beneficiaries of the RET policy, coincided with a spike in truck-burning incidents in the province.

Three weeks ago, more than 12 trucks were burnt by protesters in a single weekend, bringing the number of trucks that had been torched in the province to more than 100.

On the poor service delivery in Msunduzi Municipality which has been driving businesses out of the city, Zikalala said a team had been deployed to assist the municipality to deal with service delivery.

“We will be revitalising our strategic cities of Pietermaritzburg, Durban and Richards Bay … by amongst other things dealing with crime and poor service delivery to create a conducive environment for investment,” he said.

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (CEO) Melanie Veness, who was part of the meeting, said local business owners had, for a long time, been calling for a meeting with government over poor service delivery and other issues affecting them. “As business we need these kinds of meetings where we can jointly seek solutions to the challenges faced by our cities. Today’s meeting was an honest and robust debate about issues affecting businesses — there is definitely a willingness to address issues,” she said.


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