The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) has condemned the looting of businesses, damage to property, and intimidation and victimisation of people in the riots in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng.
This comes after shops were looted overnight in Johannesburg and Durban. The ongoing violence started in Kwazulu-Natal in the wake of the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court on Wednesday night.
SAACI acknowleded that citizens have a right to peaceful protest but the violence was unacceptable.
"What we are experiencing now with this violence that is targeted at looting and damaging public infrastructure, is pure criminality by marauding gangs who are masquerading as protesters. There is no legitimate protest that is based on breaking business premises to steal goods and damage property," Sacci said.
The Chamber said business was the main target of violent criminality, and it must stop as it is affecting the economy negatively.
"This will further add to unemployment and delay South Africa’s reconstruction and recovery plan," it said.
The Chamber called on political and community leaders to refrain from making statements that were fuelling tensions.
"We also call for people to stop spreading stories that are not true on social media platforms. The mischaracterisation of marauding criminal gangs whose sole intent is to use the cover of a “political protest” narrative, as “protesters” is both unfortunate and misleading,
"We urge the police to act decisively, and arrest and urgently prosecute the perpetrators of this criminality. The image of South Africa as an investment destination is being damaged by the minute," SACCI said.
The Chamber urged social media to ban users who were sharing fake news.
"This type of objectionable content includes the spreading of deliberate lies, and unwarranted attacks against the judiciary and court decisions by people in influential positions.
"SACCI in no way promotes censorship of legitimate criticisms of the judiciary, the courts, and its decisions. What we are cautioning against is the spreading of fake news and perpetration of deliberate lies to cause mass confusion and inflame an already volatile situation and spread further violence," it said.
Meanwhile, Some businesses have remained closed as the protests are continuing.
In a statement, Nedbank confirmed it closed all of its branches in KwaZulu Natal and several branches in Gauteng due to protest action.
"The safety of our staff and clients is a priority, and we are monitoring the situation closely. We continue to encourage our clients to make use of our digital channels and other self-service channels as alternative options," the bank said.
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