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‘We also want ANC bailout’

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Businesses in the CBD were forced to close their doors for more than two days as properties were vandalised by angry protesters

A WAY FORWARD: The Sol Plaatje Municipality executive mayor, Mangaliso Matika, yesterday held a meeting in the Council Chambers with Nocci and the Northern Cape Progressive Business Forum, as well as business owners, on the way forward after the recent protests that caused millions of rand in damages. Picture: Danie van der Lith

CITY businesses also want to be bailed out by the ANC following the looting and destruction that took place during last week’s violent community protests.

Local business owners from throughout the city held a meeting with Sol Plaatje executive mayor Mangaliso Matika and councillors yesterday, where they told of the destruction left in the wake of the protests, where many businesses, especially local tuck shops and liquor stores, were looted and some set on fire.

Businesses in the CBD were forced to close their doors for more than two days as properties were vandalised by angry protesters.

The municipality admitted that a lack of effective communication and understanding regarding the R260 electricity tariff was at the root of the chaos in which the city found itself last week.

Matika sat with members of the local business fraternity to discuss the way forward.

Business owners pointed fingers at the municipality for failing to handle the issue regarding the electricity tariff effectively, stating that community members had not been properly informed before a decision was taken to implement the basic fee.

The secretary of the Northern Cape Progressive Business Forum, Kagiso Nkomo, pointed out that if the municipality had made use of its available resources and stakeholders, what happened might have been avoided.

“The municipality failed to communicate the tariff properly to the people. The calculation of the tariff is very complex and the municipality did not handle the matter with the care it required and deserved,” said Nkomo.

“We are now faced with a situation where businesses have been looted and some business owners have been left with nothing. Those business owners have to find the means to restart and rebuild their businesses on their own. Businesses also suffered trading losses as the city was shut down for two days. Those businesses were unable to transport their resources and had stock which they later had to dispose of.

“Everyone suffered huge losses in revenue, property and resources. Some foreign nationals are now left homeless and the municipality does not have a humanitarian plan in place to assist them. These business owners are afraid and some have even left the city. This has huge implications for the economy of the city.

“Community members are now also suffering as they have nowhere to buy electricity and other basic necessities,” Nkomo added.

One local business owner said that business owners now have to foot the bill due to the municipality’s failure to take any precautionary measures during last Thursday’s protest march.

“The ANC bailed out those who were arrested during the looting of businesses. Those people were caught committing criminal activities yet the ANC assisted them. Who will assist us in rebuilding our businesses? We have lost resources and income. Businesses did not only suffer as a result of looting but also on revenue lost for the days they had to shut their doors following fears that they would also be targeted. Nobody is helping these businesses to start again. We should also be bailed out – it should not only be those who were arrested,” she said.

A foreign national, who owns a cellphone repair store, agreed that business owners had been left to fend for themselves.

“My store was looted and vandalised. The property of customers inside the store was also taken by the looters. Those customers now want me to replace their property. I do not have any insurance and I am caught in the middle. There is nobody assisting me,” he said.

Matika said the municipality would have to assess the total damage caused in order to see how it could assist.

“The municipality will have to assess all the damages sustained and then we will be in a better position to see how and where we can assist. What happened is very painful,” said Matika.

“We do want to state that the incidents were not xenophobic but criminal. We have accepted foreign nationals in our community and appreciate the contribution they make to our communities. We cannot have a situation where they are treated less than local people,” he added.

Matika assured foreign nationals that he would intervene and assist them urgently.

“We need to be able to assist our foreign brothers by Friday. There are some who have been left homeless with only the clothes on their backs. We will ask for the intervention of other stakeholders to see how we can assist them.”

Matika assured the business owners that the municipality would, in future, ensure that it communicated more effectively with all stakeholders.

“If we had foreseen what would happen, we would have prevented it. We can now put measures in place so that if there is any likelihood that this will happen again, we can take steps to prevent it. We cannot deny that this has happened.

“We do, however, need to meet with the chairpersons and secretaries of structures in order to agree on a process on how to implement what has been discussed as well as how to assist,” Matika said.