Business owners armed to the teeth to protect their livelihood
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ARMED to the teeth, some business owners in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) have vowed to lay down their lives to protect their businesses from looters who have brought the province’s economy to its knees.
The business owners are assisted by sympathetic community members and are armed with an assortment of assault weapons including machine guns, sticks and baseball bats. The anti-looters are camping day and night in predominantly white, coloured and Indian suburbs, in the wake of most of malls having been torched during the looting.
At Northdale in Pietermaritzburg, which is a predominantly Indian area, business owners are taking no chances. On Monday in broad daylight, an informal settlement within in the business zone was set on fire after two residents were killed and more than 10 injured.
This was in reaction to a group of the residents gathering and singing in support of jailed former president Jacob Zuma while advancing towards the shops.
Members of the poverty-stricken community have denied having attempted to loot; they said others from another settlement had come to their area with the aim of attacking the businesses.
Pakistani businessman Mussa Ali, who operates eight businesses in Raisethorpe business centre, said the entrepreneurs would take no chances with their businesses. He said there were more than 100 of his fellow community members taking shifts patrolling and guarding the businesses.
Ali confirmed that Raisethorpe business owners took measures against the informal settlement, saying this was in response to groups who were advancing towards businesses while police were nowhere to be seen.
“The people who loot don’t care about anything. They can loot, but why do they burn the businesses? We saw malls and factories being burned down, and business people feared losing their businesses and decided to burn the informal settlement and chased those people from there,” said Ali.
Ali also confirmed that two people, Sibahle Nguse and Nokuthula Ntsoko, were shot and killed allegedly by the business owners. Ntsoko was from Matatiele in the Eastern Cape and was in the area to visit her relatives during the school holidays. Five other residents were admitted to local hospitals with gunshot wounds.
Ali said business owners were triggered by the looting and burning down of China Mall in Manchester business centre and the newly built Brookside Mall outside the Pietermaritzburg CBD.
One of the biggest malls in Durban, Galleria Mall in eManzimtoti, was spared from looting by armed business owners and community members. It is understood that residents of Chatsworth in Durban are also out to guard businesses.
Residents of Woodlands in Pietermaritzburg gathered in groups to safeguard Northway Mall. A member of the Woodlands neighbourhood watch, ,Micheal Johnson said: “While other people go hungry, here in Woodlands we will not run out of food because no one is going to touch this mall.”
Looters in the province’s capital city left the Makro store in Camps Drift empty and in smoke. The Greater Edendale area, the home of Africans, is left without shopping centre after the attack on the three malls.
Poverty has started to hit many homes as residents could not find a place to buy essential daily items such as bread and milk. Most people who are employed by the destroyed businesses are now concerned that this might be the beginning of unemployment and an uncertain future for them.
A Makro employee who did not report for work on Tuesday said: “My girlfriend was boasting that she went to loot at Makro and came back with expensive things and I asked her if she knew that her action had cost me my job, and she said ‘sorry love’ … but the sorry won’t help me or my family.”
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE