PRESS RELEASE: PLEASE PROTECT OUR LIVES, ECONOMIC INFRASTRUCTURE, PROPERTY AND BUSINESS

July 13 2021
Embargo: none

 

The Small Business Institute (SBI) strongly condemns 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.

Whilst 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.

We are shocked and concerned that law-enforcement agencies, especially intelligence services, have allowed the situation to develop for weeks ahead of the Constitutional Court judgment on June 29 2021. 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.

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.

Even if that proposition (that the protests are an expression of rejection of the former ANC president’s arrest and imprisonment), it has 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.

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.

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

We appeal to government to work with business and other social partners in addressing this crisis.

This moment calls for leadership from all sectors of society: leaders of government, the ruling party, opposition parties, civil society, trade unions and churches.

We call on everyone in a leadership position to exercise caution and provide responsible leadership during this volatile situation. Inflammatory and bellicose rhetoric has no place.

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

Finally, we need to defend our hard-won constitutional democracy and the rule of law as well as the institutions tasked with advancing our dispensation during these trying times. The majority of South Africans are law abiding citizens who understand and respect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.