How KZN plans to rebuild after July civil unrest

By Sibusiso Mboto Time of article published Sep 23, 2021

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Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal government has heaped praise on the private sector for its commitment to help rebuild the province badly affected by the July looting and unrest, and for providing humanitarian assistance to families and communities that were left in need.

KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Ravi Pillay said the commitment reflected the social compact – a collaborative effort from different role-players – that was needed as the provincial government leads the efforts to revive the provincial economy.

The MEC gave a detailed account on some of the behind the scenes efforts and engagements that have been undertaken during the past few weeks to restore business confidence and law and order as part of the rebuilding project.

“Immediately after the unrest we had to work hard to restore law and order and to reopen the major routes such as the N2 and the N3. This work allowed us to re-establish the fuel and food supply lines thus averting food and fuel insecurity. In the mid-term the main task is not only to rebuild the physical infrastructure but also to restore confidence. The premier has been leading from the front when it comes to those efforts,” Pillay told The Mercury this week.

The engagements with the international community, the business sector and with various communities form part of the ongoing work.

“The government, working together with labour, business and civil society developed and adopted the Economic Reconstruction and Transformation Plan. In the plan, we identified 14 key sectors which are critical to the recovery of the provincial economy. For each sector we developed specific interventions and these are wide-ranging,” Pillay added.

According to the MEC the interventions include:

*providing support to affected business through relief packages such as the KZN Tourism Relief Fund,

*supporting SMMEs through various funding mechanisms such as Operation Vula,

*reviving industrial estates,

*creating shared manufacturing facilities

*and implementing infrastructure projects.

The MEC emphasised that one of the government’s targets were the small businesses, especially those that were either under-insured, or not insured at all.

He said there was a co-ordinated effort between national, provincial and local government to assist this sector. The relief measures, which include a combination of loans and grants of approximately R2.75 billion, has been set aside in addition to the role that will be played by other entities including Ithala.

The recent violence and looting saw the destruction of several businesses and the wholesale/retail and trade sector was the worst affected as it accounted for 56% of the impact, followed by transport/storage/ logistics (19%).

As expected, eThekwini suffered the most damage at 59% and accounted for followed by uMgungundlovu District which is made up of Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas at 17%.

Despite the July unrest setback, he said the provincial government remained resolute on its course of rebuilding the economy in order to generate job creation as this was crucial for the stability of the province.

Pillay emphasised that job creation remained the government’s number one priority, but conceded that this was a mammoth task as the provincial economy had been facing difficulty even before the Covid-19 lockdown, and the situation was made worse by the July unrest.

“While government is providing relief measures, the number one priority is rebuilding the economy so as to create jobs. We have repeatedly said that economic growth and job creation are two sides of the same coin, it is unlikely to have one without the other,” the MEC continued.

He added that the government has been encouraged by the patriotism shown by all South Africans including business, pointing out how many businesses have also committed to staying in the province and keeping their workers employed.

According to the MEC, the government remained committed to an inclusive economy where people across the racial spectrum benefit from the economic spoils as part of the transformation agenda.

He stressed, however, that everything needs to be done within the confines of the law.

He said the recent episodes of groupings demanding work from big businesses and threatening violence, had no place in the province.

He encouraged affected businesses to report such acts to law enforcement authorities as well as through the channels created via the KZN Economic Council.

“The president and our premier have also repeatedly said that the law enforcement agencies will deal with these crimes. We believe that the call for economic transformation should not be vulgarised or hijacked,” Pillay said.

The Mercury

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