Business owners feel betrayed by the communities they served
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THE loss for thousands of township business owners runs deep. For those who were deeply invested in the communities they operated in, it is not the lost revenue and damage to their assets that hurts the most, but rather what they see as betrayal by the people they trusted would not loot and vandalise the same businesses that provided them a service they needed.
Speaking to Business Report Online, three business owners shared their stories on how much the damage cost them and what happened when their businesses were damaged. The business owners interviewed all have businesses in townships.
The business owners form part of the township economy. While it is difficult to assess the real worth of the township economy, it is estimated to be valued at about R100 billion.
Tshepo Moeti, who co-owns Onion and All Catering and a restaurant in Zone 1, Soweto, said he never worried about his restaurant getting vandalised.
“I always felt safe in the community, I trusted that they would protect me and had my back.”
He said he was surprised when he got a call that his restaurant was looted and vandalised. “When I look at the damage, I estimate that it could be more than R100 000.”
According to Moeti, fridges with all stock were stolen and his restaurant was trashed. He said he is grateful that the building is intact. His shop was one of eight that were vandalised in the shopping complex.
Moeti said while his business has insurance, he was worried whether his insurance would pay out. “I am only going to lodge a claim on Wednesday, I am dreading the paperwork, I am not sure if I would be able to replace everything that was damaged.”
Moeti vowed that he will not move his business out of the area. “I will keep my doors open because I have employees that need to feed their families,” he said. He hires 15 employees excluding car guards outside the premises.
Another business owner who did not want to be named said his restaurant business was based in Katlehong, south-east of Joburg. He said it was also vandalised so badly, that the community started to strip the copper cables off the building.
“They took everything! The stock, the equipment, and now they are taking the zincs (corrugated iron roof sheets) off the building,” he said.
He said he was worried about the damage because every time he went to assess it he would find something new missing. “I haven’t assessed the damage, I will do so on Wednesday. I am not sure if my insurance will pay. Short-term insurance can sometimes be tricky,” he said.
He said he was disappointed that soldiers were not deployed to the Katlehong area because the damage would have been prevented. “The police are nowhere in sight, it is just a free for all there,” he said.
A butchery owner, Tony Mkhabela is left picking up the pieces after his business was broken into on Monday and looted by protesters in Jabulani, Soweto.
His butchery is situated close to Jabulani Mall, which was also looted.
Mkhabela said a customer alerted him that his butchery was broken into on Monday afternoon.
“All the stock that I had was taken, 100% of it was stolen. 50% of my machinery gone. I lost over R50 000 worth of revenue the two days that I have closed.”
He said, though he has insurance, it is still frustrating as he has to deal with paperwork.
He estimated that his claim would be R1.25 million. He said luckily, the building is still standing and has not been burned down.
He said he was afraid that the looters might come back and cause more damage.
“I will have to wait for the insurance payout, the machinery to create wors has been damaged. We could open but not in 100% capacity and also in a month, not any time soon,” Mkhabele said.
These three business people are just some of the thousands of business owners whose shops have been looted by protesters, who have taken to the streets allegedly in the name of former president Jacob Zuma.
Zuma was handed a 15-month jail sentence for being in contempt of court and began serving his term on Wednesday, July 7. The ongoing violence and unrest started in Kwazulu-Natal, his home province, and quickly spread to the country’s commercial hub of Gauteng.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday evening and appealed for calm, but the looting has continued for a fifth day.
North West University Business School economist, Professor Raymond Parsons said the current cycle of violence had posed a risk to the present economic recovery.
“Even as the president spoke, economic damage and destruction have continued to be widespread in several areas, and many businesses have been irretrievably destroyed by wanton criminality.
He said the crucial test would be to ensure that the prevailing lawlessness, looting, and other forms of public violence were reduced as soon as possible to restore business and investor confidence.
“How large the eventual overall impact of these events will be on South Africa’s economic performance will now crucially depend on whether enough will be rapidly done by security forces and others to contain and reverse the situation to bring peace and calm back to the country,” he said.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE