The pungent smell of smoke and industrial trolleys strewn along Queen Nandi Drive are a reminder of the looting, violence and destruction of property that affected KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng. The cleaning up process is underway, but the burned Game Stores warehouse point to the negative impact to the economy that the violence has left behind. Many businesses remain closed and it is unclear when they will reopen.

Nonetheless, the leadership of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have assured Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence and the Portfolio Committee on Police that they have established relative calm and stability in the province. The committees where conducting oversight in the province following the violence and looting.

The committees commended the visible cooperation between the SAPS and SANDF, which they viewed as necessary to deal with the violence. “The cooperation between the SAPS and SANDF is commendable and has stymied a bad situation from escalating even further. Despite this, we remain concerned that the situation was left to deteriorate to the extent it had,” said Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the Chairperson of the police committee.

The committees highlighted their concern around the impact of the violence and looting on businesses and the economy of the province and the country at large. Of major concern was the impeding and burning of trucks along the N3 highway, which serves as an artery for the movement of goods from Durban harbour. The SAPS and SANDF assured the committees that as a result of the cooperation among them the highway is now open for traffic and is being monitored regularly.

“We reiterate the call we made that the N3 and other major arterial highway should be designated as critical infrastructure to enable better and efficient protection of these roads, as blocking them badly impacts the heartbeat of the country’s economy,” said Mr Mamagase Nchabeleng, Co-Chairperson of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence.  

The impact of the looting and damage to property was extensive. According to SAPS statistics, 45 warehouses, 22 factories, eight banks, 66 ATMs and 66 liquor outlets were damaged and looted. This will have a negative impact on the ability of the province and the country to create an environment conducive for economic growth necessary for the creation of much-needed job opportunities to remedy the already high unemployment rate.

In addition to the huge economic impact, the other worrying aspect of the violence and looting is the alarmingly high murder rate and racial tensions, especially in the Phoenix area in Durban. The committees heard that 138 murders cases are reportedly linked to the violence in KZN. The committees called for urgent and thorough investigations to ensure successful prosecution of those cases.   

In Phoenix, the committees were critical of alleged racial stereotyping, killing and burning of cars of people believed to not be from the area. As a result, the committee called for calm, adherence to the rule of law and respect for life and other human beings. The committee also welcomed the deployment of dedicated detectives from district and provincial level to investigate the cases of murder perpetrated in the area. 

Despite the stability, both committees highlighted the need to ensure effective conclusion of investigations into the crimes committed during the period to enable effective prosecution.    

Malatswa Molepo
26 July 2021