Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

In terms of jobs alone, no South African will be left unaffected by recent events

By Time of article published Jul 22, 2021

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By Eustace Mashimbye

So much has been written and said about the violence and looting that recently broke out across parts of our country, but as an organisation that stands for job creation, it is especially difficult for Proudly South African to remain silent, and we ask that you forgive us if you are suffering from bad news fatigue, but the consequences remain a critical issue facing everyone in South Africa, specifically in respect of current and future levels of unemployment.

It is Proudly South African’s mandate to promote support for companies that locally manufacture, grow or produce goods and services and which create many thousands of jobs in the process. Simultaneously, we focus our efforts on stimulating demand for those local items.

The looting, which hit township businesses especially hard, was heartbreaking to witness. Small business owners, who have put their heart and soul, not to mention life savings, into enterprises that service the local community in which they are located, have lost everything. This includes employees whose services they no longer need since business premises, equipment and infrastructure have been looted and destroyed. Many, if not most, of these small businesses either have inadequate or no business insurance, and so their losses are irretrievable.

In a country that has been battling the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and especially unemployment from even before the current pandemic, we have now taken so many steps backwards it is hard to see a way forward. Too much has been lost. We have to wonder how these businesses will recover or even if they will recover.

And big business that represents massive investment in the country in infrastructure has not been immune. Among our members, SA Breweries’ Newcastle and Pietermaritzburg depots were looted, incurring an estimated R80 million in damages. Defy SA’s Ladysmith warehouse suffered the same fate. Mr Price Group had 109 stores ransacked and closed a further 539 as a precautionary measure against loss of life as well as stock.

The Sugar cane Growers’ Association, with whom we work closely, is reporting more than R200 million loss of revenue from its members who are mid-harvest season, as fields have been torched. Many of these growers are small, black-owned businesses, new entrants into a sector, which has an entire Master Plan dedicated to its transformation and upliftment.

The destruction to the sugar cane fields is a perfect example of how our supply chains are going to be disrupted across the board in months and possibly even years to come. The loss of sugar cane feeding through to the sugar mills will surely result in shortages of certain items in the future, and this will be mirrored in many other industries.

Unilever, another member, has suspended all digital and traditional advertising in the country. The value of their advertising spend is enormous and it, too, will have an impact on the media houses from whom it has withdrawn its placement budget.

ToyotaSA had to suspend production at its Durban plant and halted all exports, although it has recently reopened. The knock-on effect here, for a company that has committed to increasing its levels of localisation in terms of parts and components, is on those smaller suppliers, whose production must now also slow down or halt.

These are just a few examples of companies that have been hit especially hard.

No business exists in a vacuum, and supply and value chains across the country have been severely impacted by every single theft, act of violence and destruction, all in the name of short term (and ill-gotten) gains. But the consequences are long term.

Just as we were slowly building up entire industries and sectors, including those worst hit – including retail, sugar and automotive, we have now set back the work of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, organised labour and all the industry stakeholders that have sat for many hours to hammer out plans that are designed to save and create jobs.

Buying local supports and creates jobs. Helping yourself to whatever you want and damaging property in the process, takes away jobs. The effects of the looting will spare no one, least of all, the looters who have now deprived themselves of the shops and services they helped to destroy, with the result that they have closed and jobs lost.

South Africa – this is not the way. The actions that we saw play out in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng will be a major setback for hundreds of thousands of our people and their families, which depend on the income that they will now lose. This is going to cost us jobs in sectors including manufacturing and all the respective value chains as well as in the retail sector into which it feeds.

On an ironic note, there have been many memes and photos of mayhem in malls where book shops have remain untouched, so this week instead of a song, I am going to cite a book title, and that is Alan Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country.

Proudly South African deplores the loss of businesses and jobs that we and business owners have tried so hard to create and sustain. We need to build and grow the economy, not tear it down. Let us, therefore, join hands and rebuild our economy together, focusing on efforts that we have seen in many parts of the country, where citizens stood up to protect infrastructure, businesses, supply and most importantly livelihoods.

The power is in our hands, and we can help turn the tide and ensure that this never happens again.

Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites

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