A WOMAN stands next to the burnt-out remains of a business in Durban. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)
A WOMAN stands next to the burnt-out remains of a business in Durban. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban creeps back to life as business counts multibillion-rand cost of mass looting

By Lee Rondganger Time of article published Jul 19, 2021

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DURBAN slowly crept back to life on Monday, a week after mass looting and rioting laid siege to the city and dealt a blow to an already battered economy affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many shops had restocked shelves with bread, milk and other essentials that were in short supply at the weekend.

Many of the big supermarket chain stores that had felt the brunt of the looting remained closed as workers were called in to help with the clean-up.

Taxis transporting workers were back on the roads and the city’s municipal workers were operating at normal capacity, sweeping suburban streets, collecting refuse and fixing water and electrical faults.

The long queues for fuel had also dissipated with many service stations across the city operating normally. Some service stations, however, were limiting the amount of fuel that could be purchased.

However, many businesses that had been looted during last week’s mass frenzy were still cleaning up and replacing the glass of their store fronts.

There were still queues at gun and personal protection shops across the city as spooked citizens continued to arm themselves.

As life returned to some semblance of normalcy, businesses in the city were counting the cost.

The eThekwini Economic Development and Planning Committee estimated that around R1.5 billion has been lost in stock, there has been a R15bn loss to property, and over 50 000 informal traders have lost their livelihoods.

This in addition to the roughly 1.5 million people who have lost their potential to earn an income. It is estimated that some 150 000 jobs are at risk. The cost to the eThekwini economy is upward of R20bn.

Andrew Konig, president of the SA Property Owners’ Association (Sapoa) that represents over 800 organisations within the commercial property sector, said the industry was already in a pickle after their businesses had struggled as a result of Covid-19 and were now suffering the dire consequences of criminal activity and rioting.

“During 2020 and 2021, landlords had to bear the full brunt of the lockdown, and continued making payment of utilities and property rates to municipalities even when properties were not rent-producing,” said Konig.

“It has been calculated to date that some 800 stores have been looted and 100 malls have been either been burnt down or have suffered significant fire damage and a number of distribution centres, particularly in Durban, have been looted with serious structural destruction,” he said.

Malose Kekana, Sapoa’s president-elect, dispelled any notion that only white-owned monopoly capital-funded properties had been targeted. He said no one had been spared.

“For a very long time, black entrepreneurs had no opportunities for investment and the events of the past few days have set back the positive strides that have been achieved over the past 25 years, particularly in previously underdeveloped areas. Many of the malls that have made the daily news, these are owned by black property professionals,” he said

Kekana said that, in many cases, malls in the townships were built to improve the lives of the communities they served, and those that would be most affected by the loss of income would be the very people that the malls were set up to serve.

Kekana said investors were likely to think twice before investing further, which ultimately would affect the growing trend of youth unemployment in the country and the ability of those who depended on those centres to earn a living.

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