Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost, and the poor and the unemployed will be hardest hit. So the question is: was it worth it sabotaging the South African economy? writes Professor Bonke Dumisa.
I HAVE been asked to write this article about “the civil unrest and its impact on the economy”.
I have consciously avoided adopting that term “civil unrest” because it gives some level of respectability and excuses to plain criminals and looters, some of whom drove very expensive vehicles to collect the loot.
The impact of this whole well-synchronised, well-orchestrated criminal economic sabotage has been significant, as it is clear that the architects of this anarchy had a clear plan to create maximum economic hardship for the ordinary citizens and businesses.
I deliberately started from the end-result; let us now go back to the beginning.
The N3 highway from Joburg to Durban is the economic spinal cord of South Africa.
Every time there is any necessary closure of any part of the N3, especially at Van Reenen’s Pass, that usually costs the South African economy at least millions of rand per hour.
Most important goods coming to and from South Africa, especially to and from Gauteng, are transported through this N3 by trucks.
The initial attacks on trucks, and the burning of trucks, on the N3 leading to the Mooi River Toll Plaza, in KwaZulu-Natal, and the spreading of this criminality to other parts of the N3, until we ended with the entire N3 from Heidelberg, in the Gauteng province, all the way down to Cedara, near Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, posed a serious threat to the South African economy.
This has cost the economy billions of rand.
Once the N3 highway had been cut off, we started seeing posts by nameless people advocating a total shutdown on Monday, July 12.
They started invading various business areas all over KwaZulu-Natal with total impunity.
This reminded me of 1985 when all of the black businesses were looted and burned down in Umlazi, KwaMashu and other black areas.
Those 1985 riots were openly sponsored by the apartheid forces who publicly escorted the looters, with the big army hippos, from one black shopping centre to the next.
The apartheid forces used those riots to pre-empt and prevent the consumer boycotts which were about to be launched in Durban and the surrounding areas.
Paradoxically, many of the people who were in the forefront of destroying black businesses then are now full-time politicians of the ANC ruling party and other smaller parties.
Almost all of the black businesses destroyed in 1985 never recovered; most of them either remain in ruins today or have now been converted to churches.
The difference between the apartheid-inspired lootings of 1985 and these 2021 lootings and anarchy is that the planners of this year’s criminal economic sabotage have now targeted all the KwaZulu-Natal areas, labelling the big businesses as white monopoly capital businesses.
The people who invaded the places for looting comprised people of all age groups, both gender, and all income groups.
Some people were driving Range Rovers, Mercs, and other very expensive cars to collect their loot.
It is therefore very misleading to the community, and even very condescending towards the poor, the unemployed, and the youth, to say they are the people who are actively participating in this mass looting and anarchy.
It is true that South Africa has serious challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
There was hope that the black majority government was going to honestly focus on addressing these issues.
It is not in dispute that the state capture corruption is one such major example of how the ruling party diverted most of the financial resources which could have been used to reduce poverty levels in the country, and in reducing inequality levels in South Africa to a selected few politically-connected friends and fronts.
South Africans must honestly address these issues.
South Africa also has a structural unemployment problem that demands a total overhaul of our education system, so that our education system must produce individuals with the proper skills that match the economic needs of our country.
But, it is very opportunistic to say the gullible of us who have been involved in this looting have done so because of poverty, unemployment, and inequality.
Let us squarely put the blame on the architects of this criminal economic sabotage.
It is unfortunate that most of the vital businesses and networks that supply food, other essential home goods, medicines etc have been disrupted; and this will result in serious food shortages as we have already witnessed with the very long queues at the very few retailers that are still open.
This will also lead to serious food inflation which will all be heavier on the very same poor and the unemployed.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost, and the poor and the unemployed will be hardest hit.
The question then will be: was it worth it sabotaging the South African economy?
* Professor Bonke Dumisa is an Independent Economic Analyst.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the DFA and Independent Media.