People gather at Church Square for the anti-Zuma march to the Union Buildings last Thursday. Another march is scheduled for Wednesday. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA Pictures
Pretoria – As the city braces for the second mass action against President Jacob Zuma in less than a week, the business sector has spoken out about the impact of the marches on the economy.

Hardly a week passes without mass action by residents demanding better services or labour-related matters.

Salim Yusuf, president of the Tshwane Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said it was difficult to determine the impact of marches on businesses, but they negatively affected their operations.

“There is no mechanism to check the direct impact on business,” Yusuf said. The business community understood the democratic rights of people to embark on marches.

Yusuf said he found the Save South Africa march was amusing owing to a huge turnout of white protesters.

“It was amusing to see a lot of white people taking to the street in a very long time. I mean not even during apartheid have we seen such a huge number of whites joining the march. The march was very peaceful,” he said.

The secretary of the Tshwane Barekisi Forum, Mary Ngema, said informal traders struggled to get back on their feet after a day of protest. Constant strikes in the city adversely affect small businesses, she said. “A loss of every 50 cents cost our businesses so much,” Ngema said.

Many informal traders, she said, lost a day of doing business last week due to the People’s March, convened by Save South Africa.

“This week we are going to work for three days because of Wednesday's march and the Easter holidays,” she said.

Ngema blamed Zuma for being the cause of the marches, saying he must do the right thing and step down.

“Our president must do the right thing. We can’t really tell him what to do, but we take it he can see that as a leader he is able to witness how the poor of the poorest are suffering on the ground,” she said.

Owing to loss of profit most hawkers were forced to borrow money from loan sharks, Ngema said.

Betty Mosilo, an informal trader, said the marches led by schoolchildren were more disruptive. “Children are often ill-disciplined and end up looting our stock,” she said.

She said that during the marches their customers were scared to buy from them.

Mohammed Dewal, from Ethiopia, said he did not open his shop whenever there was a day of protest. “Police usually warn us to lock up our shops,” he said.

Community Safety and Emergency Services MMC Anniruth Kissoonduth said the metro police operations during the marches were not all about the costs, but the safety of the people.

“The people must be protected and they must be safeguarded too,” he said.

He praised the organisers of Save South Africa for organising a peaceful march.

According to him, whether the march was legal or not, it had to be policed because people’s lives could be in danger.

Fanie du Plessis, chief executive of the Capital City Business Chamber, said businesses were looking for a conducive and secure environment to do business.

He said customers go freely to shops if there was no danger.

But Du Plessis said whenever there was a strike action customers avoided going into businesses near where the protesters were.

“Loss of customers impact on your turnover for a specific day of strike action,” he said.

Generally, Du Plessis said, any type of march was having a debilitating impact on businesses.

It was difficult to quantify the loss of business during marches because of a lack of scientific survey to determine the impact, he said.

The most hard-hit businesses in the CBD were the banking sector and car dealerships which relied on walk-in customers, he said.

Pretoria News