Riots hit 40 000 businesses, as Ramaphosa admits govt didn't react fast enough

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Supplied/GCIS

A week of deadly riots in South Africa could cost the country about R50 billion in lost output, while 150 000 jobs have been placed at risk, the Presidency said, citing estimates from the South African Property Owners' Association.

About 200 malls were targeted and some 3 000 shops were looted during the protests, while 200 banks and post offices were vandalised, acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told reporters in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Marauding mobs have ransacked hundreds of businesses and destroyed telecommunications towers and other infrastructure, while transport networks and a program to vaccinate people against the coronavirus have been disrupted.

The protests were triggered by the July 7 jailing of former president Jacob Zuma, and quickly generated into a free-for-all in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in which at least 215 people died. No unrest has been reported since Monday, and most malls have reopened, Ntshavheni said.

In a meeting with more than 90 chief executives and industry leaders on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa conceded that his administration was inadequately prepared to deal with the scale of the unrest and the security forces didn’t respond quickly enough. Most of the 25 000 soldiers that had been instructed to assist the police maintain stability had been deployed, he said.

"We need to take every available step to ensure the return our ports and rail lines to full operation, restore manufacturing capacity of vital goods as quickly as possible and put in place contingency measures where facilities have been badly damaged or stocks looted or destroyed," Ramaphosa said in his opening remarks that were distributed by his office. "We need to ensure that medicines are available, health facilities are functioning, and the Covid-19 testing and vaccination sites are fully operational."

The South African Property Owners Association also said that:

  • The looters targeted 150 000 informal traders.
  • In total 40 000 businesses have been affected by the protests.
  • About 1 400 automatic bank teller machines were damaged.
  • Some 100 malls were burnt or significantly damaged by fire.
  • Stock worth about R1.5 billion was lost in Durban alone.
  • Eleven warehouses and eight factories were extensively damaged.
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