Pretoria city centre businesses bear the brunt of placard-wielding protesters

Businesses in the Pretoria CBD are tired of inconveniences during marches. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Businesses in the Pretoria CBD are tired of inconveniences during marches. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 4, 2023


Pretoria - Businesses in Pretoria city centre are always apprehensive about incurring a loss of turnover for a day whenever they see placard-wielding protesters chanting Struggle songs taking to the streets.

This is the sentiment shared by many shopkeepers, who spoke to the Pretoria News. The particularly referred to recent marches by the ANC and EFF in the CBD.

Out of fear of possible looting many are forced to lock up their shops every time marchers approach their businesses on their way to their destinations to deliver memorandums of demands.

A Bangladeshi shop owner, who didn’t want to be named for fear of victimisation, said the only thing that kept his shop safe for years was to close it when he had reason to believe that the protesting crowd posed a danger to his business.

Some years back, his brother lost goods worth about R10  000 after some protesters stormed the shop and helped themselves to food and drinks.

One of the business owners, Ali Usman, runs a business repairing and selling cellphones on Thabo Sehume Street.

He said it had become the norm for businesses to be affected by constant strikes in the city centre.

“I think many business people working here have made peace with the fact that their daily operations might be disrupted by marchers.

“There is not too much we can do about it, because the marchers also have rights to raise their issues. There is terrible load shedding and people can’t keep quiet,” he said.

As a result of the protests, Usman said he often found himself having to close his business for a few hours to allow the situation to calm down.

“The protests are costing us a lot of things. But the main thing is that every time I have to close shop I lose out on making profit. I’m aware that during marches, the SAPS and the metro police always keep an eye on the situation, but I also know that they can’t be everywhere. That is why I take precaution by closing my shop,” he said.

Salem, another shopkeeper who wanted to be identified by only her first name, said most of the time she makes sure she did not open her store when she has been told on time about a protest.

“I just make sure I stay home to protect myself,” she said.

According to her, she would rather lose a day of making money than risk her life by coming to work.

She cited the EFF-led national shutdown, saying some party members came into her shop to warn her not to open on the day of the protest.

“Whenever there is a serious strike I close. Like during the EFF strike, I had to close my shop and stay at home to protect my business and myself,” Salem said.

She added that it was a struggle for her to make up for losses incurred on a day when there was a strike.

A Nigerian businessman, who also didn’t want to be identified, said: “For me, every strike affects my business for hours when many protesters are still around the CBD.

“I only close my shop depending on how serious the strike is.

“Like the EFF strike, it was serious and I had to close for the day. With the ANC strike we knew that it was not going to be that serious so we didn’t close.”

Often, he said, there was no way to recover from a loss for the day.

“We have accepted the situation; it is part of business here in the CBD. At the end of the month you realise that you have lost and there is nothing you can do about it,” he said.

The ANC march under the banner #BuyaTshwane people’s campaign highlighted a number of service delivery failures under the DA-led coalition government since 2016.

Tshwane Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that in the past marches were a concern, because they negatively affected business in the capital city.

The organisation said it was difficult to gauge the economic effects of the marches due to lack of mechanism to check their direct impact on businesses.

Capital City Business Chamber said businesses were looking for a conducive and secure environment to allow customers to go freely to their shops.

It said that whenever there was a strike customers avoided going into businesses near where there were protesters.

In the CBD the banking sector and car dealerships, which rely mostly on walk-in customers, were severely affected, the organisation said.

Pretoria News