HE started as a street vendor 20 years ago and when Edendale Mall opened 10 years ago, he rented a small stall to sell food.
But, on Sunday night, Pietermaritzburg businessman Sabelo Vilakazi watched as his three businesses – Capital Legacy, Micro Loans and AfriHerbal Pharmacy – were looted and burned to the ground.
Vilakazi calculated a loss of about R10 million as cash, equipment and upmarket furniture were stolen on Sunday night.
He said he and his staff had arrived early on Sunday to prepare their Capital Legacy restaurant and bar in anticipation of President Cyril Ramaphosa's address to the nation.
He said they expected the president to announce the reopening of restaurants and his staff were excited at the prospect of them returning to work.
“Everybody came in joy on Sunday but the next day everything was in ashes.
“They stripped my shops of everything. There is nothing left, not even a spoon,” Vilakazi said.
He said when he got the dreadful call that his stores were being looted, he rushed to the scene and t his surprise, he also saw people he knew personally who were participating in the looting.
“When I got there I saw people that knew me just taking stuff out of my shop in front of my eyes. They couldn’t care less that I was there.
“They had vans parked there and they were taking my industrial machines and loading it into their vans.”
Sabelo Vilakazi who owned three businesses in the Edendale Mall became emotional while talking about the massive losses he incurred after his businesses were looted and burned to the ground. Video: Kailene Pillay/IOL Political Bureau
He said his biggest loss was the destruction of AfriHerbal, his African herbal pharmacy.
“It brought joy to me and resembled me as an African young entrepreneur to recognise the culture behind our own materials and that store was the first of its kind in a commercialised area.
“You would enter as if you were going to DisChem. That is how beautiful I made it.”.
The Greater Edendale Mall, which celebrated its 10 year anniversary last year, was completely gutted when looters and rioters attacked it on Sunday night, shortly after Ramaphosa’s addressed the nation.
Security supervisor at the mall, Siphelele Shange said that about 1886 workers, excluding security and cleaners, were employed at the mall but were now left without jobs.
“Some were breadwinners, some bought cars and houses that they cannot pay for now,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTE), Ravi Pillay alongside other members of the KZN Legislature and municipal mayors conducted an oversight visit to some of the businesses hardest hit by the violent protests within the uMgungundlovu District this week.
The visit forms part of the legislature programme which saw members visiting various towns across all districts to assess the damage done.
MEC Pillay said the information gathered during the oversight visit would be compiled into a report which will influence interventions.
“The report is going to inform a political response on what kind of programmes need to be implemented and what budgets are to be rearranged. The report must eventually underpin a comprehensive response from the government,” Pillay said.