Billions of rand lost due to looting, says mayor Kaunda
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DURBAN - THE eThekwini Municipality has lost R20 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while unemployment levels have rocketed since the looting of businesses began this week.
Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda spoke on Wednesday during a brainstorming session at the Phoenix police station with community leaders from Inanda, Ntuzuma, KwaMashu (INK) and Phoenix. Shortly afterwards, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala conducted an in loco inspection at Queen Nandi Drive, in Riverhorse Valley, after Mass Mart was looted and later set alight, along with the Samsung building.
He found there was lack of co-ordination among the law enforcement agencies, including the Durban Metro police, the SAPS, private security companies and SANDF who tried to ward of the looters on Wednesday.
Kaunda identified hot spots, particularly where the racial tensions brewed, and outlined his plan to stop violent public protests, looting and vigilantism. He urged communities to protect their properties and families, but within the confines of the law.
Kaunda said the city would be rolling out a month-long programme to diffuse the simmering racial tensions in Verulam, Hillcrest and Phoenix.
“These communities have been living together for many years; eThekwini belongs to all who live in it. We cannot have no-go areas for certain racial groups. We acknowledge the anxieties and fears of people on all sides of this crisis,” he said.
Kaunda said the preliminary estimates on the economic impact of the unrest was R1 billion in loss of stock and R15 billion in damage to property and equipment. There were 55 000 informal traders affected; 40 000 formal businesses impacted including small businesses, and a large portion of those may never recover; 129 000 jobs at risk and a large portion of that may be lost. Kaunda said all the malls in the townships were destroyed.
“It has derailed our efforts to build the township economy. This could lead to widespread food shortages over the coming weeks and a sharp increase in the price of basic goods,” said Kaunda.
Kaunda said the city would meet with the business sector through the newly-established eThekwini Economic Council, to understand how they can work together during the crisis and in the aftermath. He said people have lost their jobs and would no longer be able to meet their financial obligations.
Phoenix residents said they would not remove barricades blocking roads and street checkpoints, until they have regular visible police patrols. Phoenix councillor Samier Singh said they would not remove it until they were reassured that patrols would continue and the army was deployed.
Singh said residents were protecting their properties from possible looters. Videos have been circulating of vehicles being torched and people suspected of looting being assaulted in Phoenix. A source said Phoenix police were investigating 15 murder dockets. Most with gunshot wounds.
Inanda community policing forum spokesperson Kingdom Mzwandile said the area was quiet on Wednesday because all the shops were looted.
“We are protecting one of the cash and carry supermarkets. The community are resilient and don’t want to lose the last supply shop,” Mzwandile said.
Phoenix CPF spokesperson Umesh Singh said they mobilised street committees and that criminal elements jumped on to the bandwagon.
“We have to be extra vigilant at night. The community is stretched to the limit, both mentally and physically. We have asked residents to be considerate at roadblocks,” Singh said.
Unarmed SANDF soldiers tried to scare off looters on Queen Nandi Drive, where warehouses stocking various goods were being looted on Wednesday.
Police were also alerted to the site of three bodies that lay strewn under the Queen Nandi Drive bridge. One Track security spokesperson Michael Du Plessis said the bodies were in rigor mortis.
Thousands of people converged on the area to loot unguarded warehouses in the Riverhorse Valley and Briardene industrial vicinity. The area was littered with discarded appliances boxes. Trucks and hysters, taken from warehouses, were left abandoned on the road. Many of the looters were women.
Zikalala urged people to stop looting when he walked through the area, with the Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Ravi Pillay, and Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Peggy Nkonyeni.
Zikalala said, from what he saw, there was a lack of coordination among Durban Metro police, the SAPS, private security companies, and the SANDF.
“We have a plan for each district to curb looting. We want to ensure there is stability,” he said.
Nkonyeni also physically stopped several looters from making off with goods. She stopped two cars and a bakkie from driving off with goods loaded on them. While she was conducting an in loco inspection, more than 100 gunshots rang off, as private security guards tried to disperse looters from getting into warehouses they were protecting.