The affordable education loan option
Cape Town - While vendors had been robbed of their livelihoods and businesses would have to spend months processing insurance claims, the real cost of Wednesday’s riots was South Africa’s reputation, Michael Bagraim, chairman of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry human capital portfolio, said on Thursday.
He said YouTube clips of the breakaway housing protest, in which shops were looted, bins overturned and windows smashed in the city centre, were doing the rounds among his international clients.
Bagraim represents more than 1 400 businesses, many of them with ties overseas. “We want investors to look at South Africa as a place to do business. What they saw in these videos was chaos - there were no police anywhere and people were running riot.”
He said the scenes had shaken confidence in the country.
While businesses would recover from the lost hours and broken assets, and while vendors might be able to build up their stocks again, South Africa’s reputation had been immeasurably damaged and it could take years for it to recover.
“All the fantastic work of the 2010 World Cup, where we showed the world we could handle anything, is being undone. You are only as good as your last event, and our last event was a rampage.”
But it was not a death sentence for South Africa as an investor destination. “We have to avoid another situation like this at all costs and put ourselves back on the right track.”
The mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said that about R300 000 in damage to small items, such as bins and trees, had already been tallied.
But he said the total cost to the city could easily top R1 million. “We have a cost recovery team out there at the moment assessing the damage.”
The final tally would be made available by the end of the weekend.
Smith said the destruction of public infrastructure was infantile.
“We have footage of people picking palm trees out of the ground. Spending a good 15 minutes just pulling them out and kicking them.”
At the time of going to print, two protesters had been arrested and were set to be charged and appear in court.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said there had been seven cases registered, including “public violence, malicious damage to property, theft, housebreaking and possession of stolen goods”.
The police have urged victims of the riots to press charges.
Traut also responded to claims that the police had been unprepared for the looting and vandalism, saying: “We have good reason to believe our tactics on Thursday ensured that the situation was kept under control and prevented further chaos.”