‘Getting businesses to invest in KZN after July 2021 unrest an uphill battle’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry says last year’s civil unrest has deterred investors.

Several businesses were forced to close after days of widespread looting and vandalism in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng. The Chamber’s CEO Palesa Phili says several investors are still reluctant to come to the province.

She says some businesses have made the difficult decision not to re-open.

“The unrest caused immense damage to the province of KwaZulu-Natal and the City of eThekwini more specifically because we were a hot spot. There was a financial damage but over and above that, the worse part is the reputational damage of ensuring that the businesses trust that the investment is safe in the province, but also to get investors to come and invest in the province has been an uphill battle for us as the business community from KwaZulu-Natal given what happened with the unrest. We do have quite a lot of companies that decided to just pack and leave. Even medium businesses that were hiring here in our province they have left, they have gone to different provinces in the country.”

KwaMashu damage

The trail of destruction from last years civil unrest remains in several parts of Durban.

Reporter Simphiwe Makhanya is at Bridge City mall in KwaMashu:

The multi-million rand Bridge City shopping centre in KwaMashu was gutted, looted and parts of it torched by looters. Hundreds of people who were employed at this mall from the area are still without jobs as re-construction efforts are still under way.

The unrest severely crippled the economy, causing food shortages and affecting major services.

Sbonelo Mbatha lost three petrol stations when they were set alight during widespread looting and vandalism. Mbatha says he is still counting millions of rands’ worth of losses from the damage to his businesses. He says he does not have the confidence that what happened last year will not happen again.

“I lost a lot of money, my employees lost their income, government lost a lot of revenue, taxpayers lost a lot of money to support them. This has really been a knock-on effect on many aspects. I cannot stand here and say I am not scared; I will be lying to you to you if I say that I am fully confident that something that happened and witnessed will never happen again. I hope and pray that it shall never ever happen again. One of my biggest fears is are we going to normalise unrests in South Africa.”

Mbatha has also criticised the authorities for what he calls red tape for people wanting to start businesses in South Africa.

“Generally, in South Africa we need to remove red tape. I think we have one of the hardest competences. Just to employ a person in South Africa is not as easy as one thinks and let alone when you have to part ways with an employee that has not performed according to what they wanted. So, we not really creating a conducive environment to do business, it is difficulty we have so many compliance things we’ve got to deal with.”