A Cape Town businessman lost R30 000 in a single day during a recent service delivery protest.
Hyder Ibrahim and a business partner, who took ownership of the Caltex Garage on the corner of Lansdowne and Spine Road in April, said that two or three days of protest action over the last two weeks was all it took to “be knocked back to square one”.
“My partner and I took over this business five months ago. Back then the Caltex garage was in real financial trouble and it took a huge effort to rebuild it. And now, just as it was starting to look sustainable, this happened,” said Ibrahim.
“And we don’t have any answers. We’re like sitting ducks, just hoping the police can sort it out.”
On Monday, with roads in the area closed and pedestrians being too afraid to walk to the petrol station’s shop, business ground to a halt. Things hadn’t improved much by yesterday morning, Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim has not yet estimated the value of revenue he’s lost since the start of the business week, but says a single day of protest two weeks ago cost him in excess of R30 000.
The City of Cape Town has appealed for information about the recent series of violent protests. It has already offered a R50 000 reward for information about them.
Three people have died in the protests to date – the latest, according to the city, was 30-year-old Xolela Poncho who died after his truck was stoned by protesters on Monday night and he drove into a barricade near the N2/Mew Way intersection.
Golden Arrow bus driver Sandile Hoko died after the bus he was driving on August 3 was stoned, causing him to crash into a number of houses and hitting Daniel Sass, who later died in hospital.
JP Smith, mayco member for safety and security, said protests had already caused over R5 million worth of damage to infrastructure while a further R600 000 has already been spent in overtime budgets for law enforcement.
The latest spate of riots in Khayelitsha has pushed large parts of Cape Town over a “tipping point” from a business sustainability and investment point of view, says Cape Chamber of Commerce head, Michael Bagraim.
“The way that conversations [in the business community] have changed in the last 48 hours is quite incredible. With new protest flare-ups [in Nyanga at the end of last week] there was still optimism that it was just another flash in the pan, one that the police could bring under control,” said Bagraim.
But business owners and potential investors have started to panic since the protests spilled over into neighbouring Khayelitsha at the beginning of this week, he said.
Bagraim said that Ibrahim’s story was a typical side effect of protests in the city.
“Its very sad and frustrating for individual businessmen. If you multiply this scenario by 20 businesses then you are heading for a catastrophe,” said Bagraim.
Ibrahim admits the closure of the Spine Road Caltex garage is a real possibility. This would mean that 30 people will lose their jobs.
Loyiso Mfuku, co-owner of Tourism Khayelitsha, also fears the effects that the protests will have on tourists’ perception of safety and security in the area. Although he admits that it is too early to tell how it will affect the peak summer season, he is concerned.
“This could well deter your mainstream, holiday tourist coming to South Africa to relax,” said Mfuku.
“But the flipside is that it can attract a different type of tourist – someone who is genuinely interested to learn more about social issues in the country. We remain optimistic.”