Business counts cost of xenophobia as African nations retaliate
JOHANNESBURG – The country’s businesses have started counting the cost of the ongoing xenophobic attacks on foreigners that have claimed at least 10 lives in South Africa.
Captains of industry said on Monday that they were working with the authorities to stem the tide of violence as retaliatory attacks on the continent continue to halt trading.
In the past week, the operations of MultiChoice, MTN, Vodacom, Shoprite and Pick n Pay were disrupted in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Malawi as locals trashed stores in revenge attacks.
The executives met the SAPS’s top brass, including Police Minister Bheki Cele, to express their concerns about the effect on business operations and to try to map a way forward.
The president of the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, advocate Mtho Xulu, said the violence had seriously affected the free flow of goods on the continent.
“We are working closely with the security and economic clusters of the government to restore trade relations with other countries,” Xulu said.
“We, as the South African Chamber of Commerce, strongly condemn the violence directed at businesses irrespective of the origin of the owners, because we see ourselves as an integral part of the African economy.
“We encourage the lawful and free flow of goods and services and people throughout the African continent,” he added.
At least 640 people have been arrested in South Africa and 10 have died since the anti-foreigner sentiment by locals began gaining traction a couple of weeks ago.
MTN group chief executive Rob Shuter said that foreign investors were panicking due to the recent developments in South Africa.
Shuter said MTN, the continent’s largest mobile operator, had to close four retail shops after they were vandalised in Nigeria.
“MTN operates in 17 countries across Africa; we service more than 200 million customers, and we are a believer in an integrated Africa,” Shuter said.
“MTN has been welcomed in many of these markets. The implications of this situation in South Africa over the past week are profound.
“The MTN group is almost 50 percent owned by international investors living in London, New York and Boston. They are also calling (us) to understand what the implications are for them.”
MultiChoice chief executive Calvo Mawela said they had to close operations for four days in Nigeria last week, which affected their customers.
“MultiChoice operates in 50 countries, and these disruptions have taken a toll on all of us, as it’s been two weeks of unrest. We would like to appeal to everyone to shun violence and build a prosperous Africa,” Mawela said.