Ramaphosa kicks off meeting to plot SA's economic recovery following devastating unrest

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
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  • President Cyril Ramaphosa met with business representatives on Tuesday to plot the country's recovery strategy.
  • Ramaphosa warned that the impact of the unrest cannot underestimated, since KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng account for 50% of South Africa’s GDP, and are home to 45% of the population.
  • Government has been working with social partners to put together a social and economic relief package – which will be formed, in part, by extending and repurposing some of the country’s Covid-19 relief measures.

The economic impact of the recent looting and unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng "cannot be underestimated", President Cyril Ramaphosa warned, as he met with representatives of South Africa's various business sectors on Tuesday to plot the country's recovery strategy.

Government has been working with social partners to put together a social and economic relief package to support affected households, businesses and employees. This will be done, in part, by extending and repurposing some of the country’s Covid-19 relief measures. 

Over a ten-day period, numerous retail stores, farms and other businesses were destroyed and looted by people in both provinces, causing a disruption to supply chains and concerns about food security. Hundreds of people were killed during the unrest.

Opening the meeting, Ramaphosa - who has described the unrest as an attempted insurrection - said evidence showed the events were part of a coordinated attack on the country.

"The actions were intended to cripple the economy, cause social instability and severely weaken – or even dislodge – the democratic state," he said. 

The impact of the riots could not be underestimated, he added, saying that KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng together account for 50% of South Africa’s GDP, and are home to 45% of its population.

Key priorities 

Ramphosa said the first priority would be to restore stability by increasing security in the affected areas in both provinces.

He acknowledged that the government had not been adequately prepared for the unrest and security forces should have responded faster. But he also commended security personal for doing their best as the unrest unfolded. 

The state deployed 25 000 South African Defence Force personnel in the provinces’ hotspots, like the N3 highway, to support the police and law enforcement agencies in dealing with the security crisis.

The South African Police Service has also implemented community policing strategy areas across the country.

Also near the top of the list is securing essential supplies such as medical products by ensuring that ports and railway lines can return to full operation. With regards to food security, provincial departments are providing food parcels, vouchers and cash.

Government has been collaborating with various social partners to put together a social and economic relief package to support affected households, businesses and workers impacted by the unrest.

This package will be achieved, in part, through the extension and repurposing of some of the country’s Covid-19 relief measures. 

"In all this work, coordination and cooperation with the private sector is essential. Information sharing and constant communication about potential threats is necessary for an appropriate and effective response," Ramaphosa said.  

Ramphosa said accelerating country’s economic recovery would be another priority. 

"Over the past months, we have made progress in kick-starting some of the key structural reforms identified in Operation Vulindlela. This underscores our commitment to create the conditions for growth and job creation. The violence and destruction of the past two weeks has provided the starkest reminder of what is at stake," he said.

He suggested that the private and public sectors begin joint roadshows to engage with investors, as part of reviving South Africa’s economy. 

"It is important that the needs of business are understood, that interventions are appropriate and sufficient, and that there is a common, agreed programme of rebuilding," he said.

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