South Africa’s entire economy will feel the impact of the riots and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng President Cyril Ramaphosa told business leaders at a meeting on Tuesday.
Ramaphosa was addressing a meeting of more than 90 CEOs and business leaders of key industries that were impacted by last week’s civil unrest. The meeting was called to discuss steps that the government and business leaders are now taking to recover and rebuild the economy following the billions of rands of losses incurred due to the damage to infrastructure and looting.
“There is virtually no part of the economy that has not been affected by the violence, and there is probably no part of the country that will not feel the effects in some form or another because of the way our supply chains work. We cannot understate the impact on the country of the disruption, destruction and looting that took place last week,” Ramaphosa said.
KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng combined account for 50% of the country’s GDP and are home to 45 percent of all citizens.
“The evidence that we have indicates that the events last week were part of a deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy, the rule of law and our constitution. The actions were intended to cripple the economy, cause social instability and severely weaken – or even dislodge – the democratic state,” Ramaphosa said.
He said that those behind the riots, looting and arson had sought to exploit the socio-economic conditions of millions of South Africans, to provoke ordinary citizens and activate criminal networks to engage in opportunistic acts of looting.
“While there was planning and coordination, local conditions, tensions and conflicts have also contributed to the nature of local activities. The ensuing chaos was used as a smokescreen to carry out economic sabotage through targeted attacks on trucks, factories, warehouses and other infrastructure necessary for the functioning of our economy and the provision of services to our people,” Ramaphosa said.
“It is important to correctly characterise these events so that the measures we take are effective in preventing a resurgence of violence and destruction – and so that we address the root causes, not only the symptoms.”
“Despite the efforts of these instigators, business people, worker representatives and community leaders have played a remarkable role to defend property, to protect communities, to open supply chains among other supportive steps. Taxi owners have defended malls. Businesses have provided food and fuel to their workers. Today supermarkets are feeding our security forces. Some of you have supplied cars to our forces.”
He said the government appreciated these contributions to the “national effort” following the riots.
“As a government, we have acknowledged that we were not sufficiently prepared for violence, destruction and looting on this scale, and that the response of our security forces should have been quicker. However, we must commend those personnel that were on the ground for doing what they could under difficult and dangerous circumstances,” Ramaphosa said.
“We need to acknowledge the impact of state capture and that he hollowing out of institutions had a direct impact on the capabilities of the state. We have made important progress in taking corrective measures, but there is much more work to be done.”
Ramaphosa said the state was now focused on four major priorties, to restore and maintain stability; to secure essential supplies; to provide relief and start rebuilding and to accelerate inclusive economic recovery.