By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed high on the agenda businesses crippled by looting and property damage in the wave of violent attacks in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.
In a national address on Friday evening, the President assured that every effort will be made to resurrect enterprises damaged in what he called a failed "attempted insurrection".
"A team in the Presidency and National Treasury is hard at work to develop a comprehensive support package for Cabinet’s consideration," the President said.
While the President said a further announcement in this regard will be made soon, he noted that progress is being made to secure logistics infrastructure, with the N3 highway between eThekwini and Gauteng being re-opened.
Security forces, the President said, are in place to keep vital supply routes open.
"The security forces are working with business to ensure the safe transport of fuel, food, oxygen, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and other critical supplies."
Operations at the ports of Durban and Richards Bay are being restored to enable the resumption of exports and imports. Regulations have been issued, in terms of the Competition Act, to enable firms involved in the supply of essential goods to share information about the availability and demand for certain goods.
This, the President said, is to help prevent shortages of essential goods and promote the equitable distribution of scarce essential goods across the country.
"These measures will ensure that supply chains remain intact. I want to emphasise that there is no shortage of food or supplies in most parts of the country, and that panic buying will only worsen the situation."
In a briefing earlier on Friday, Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said the Department of Trade and Industry and Competition has set up an email address -- ioc.@dtic.gov.za -- where companies can report potential imminent and actual looting taking place in their areas or establishments.
Cases will be rerouted to the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure for further urgent action.
Safeguarding key infrastructure
Ramaphosa said in addition to supporting the police to maintain order, South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members have been deployed to protect key infrastructure and commercial sites that are vital to the functioning of the economy and the uninterrupted provision of services to citizens.
The President emphasised that specialised units of law enforcement agencies are working around the clock to locate and apprehend those responsible for planning and coordinating this violence.
"While our security forces are steadily establishing control on the ground, the effects of this violence will be felt by all South Africans in the days, weeks and months to come.
"The damage that has been done to vital economic infrastructure will take time to repair.
"This, in turn, will have an impact on the availability of food, fuel, medicine and other supplies not only in South Africa, but across the region."
Economic impact and social relief
The President warned that as businesses were damaged at a critical time when the country was struggling to recover from the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, further job losses can be expected.
"Ultimately, it will deepen poverty and cause even greater hardship for millions of South Africans."
The widespread looting of the past week is likely to fuel a further increase of COVID-19 infections. The COVID-19 vaccination programme in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng has also been interrupted, along with other services that were impacted by the violence.
The President said now more than ever, households and businesses would need a helping hand.
"It is imperative that we take further steps to provide support to households and to help businesses to restock and rebuild.
"We are in the process of providing immediate food relief to households. We are targeting areas affected by the looting and where people have no access to food."
Provincial Departments of Social Development and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will use their remaining budget in the Social Relief of Distress programme to provide support in the form of food parcels, cash and food vouchers.
“We are working hard to bring all SASSA offices into operation. Cash pay points are expected to resume services from the 19th of July in all the areas that have been declared safe to operate,” President Ramaphosa said.
To assist with the immediate needs of affected communities, the Solidarity Fund has established a Humanitarian Crisis Relief Fund to assist those in need.
The President called on all South Africans to support this fund.
"We appreciate the support of the many companies, organisations and faith-based groups that have already started providing support to families in distress.
"Social partners have been meeting to discuss a range of measures which can be implemented to provide immediate relief within our fiscal means. This includes the provision of emergency food relief and other assistance to those in greatest distress.
"We will also help our small businesses, including those in townships and rural areas, to heal from the damage they have suffered.
"Our business people provide important goods and services in our communities, and we will help them to rebuild their businesses."