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Businesses reel as #ZumaUnrest rages

A number of businesses and services have closed their doors as violent unrest spread across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, leaving a number of dead and wounded civilians and looted and burned shops in their wake.

The pro-Jacob Zuma protests began last week in reaction to his being jailed for contempt of court, but quickly degenerated into widespread looting and vandalism, with multiple shopping malls ransacked, vehicles torched and public spaces desecrated.

Initially constrained to townships and the eThekwini central business district, the violence in KwaZulu-Natal has spread across Pietermaritzburg and Durban’s suburban areas.

In response, pharmaceutical chains Dis-Chem and Clicks temporarily shut down all branches across the province on Monday. This includes the closure of Covid-19 drive-through testing and vaccine sites – the latest setback in a vaccine roll-out already beset by delays.

Banks, too, have likewise been disrupted. Absa shut down all branches in the province while Standard Bank urged customers to utilise online banking, reporting that the unrest had prevented employees from coming into work.  

All public transport services in the region were also halted

In Gauteng, the escalating situation in Alexandra and Jeppestown over the weekend forced a number of local shop owners to stop trading for fear of coming under attack. As tensions grew on Monday morning, a number of shopping malls and businesses across the province were forced into similar action. The Neighbourhood Square in Linksfield and Centurion Mall were just two of many compelled to implement “lockdown procedures”.

By early afternoon, the South African Social Security Agency announced it would suspend cash delivery services to pay points until further notice, a move that will hurt beneficiaries of social grants.

During his address to the nation on Sunday night, which largely focused on South Africa’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa took time to condemn the violence, noting the damage the mob outbreaks were having on the economy and people’s livelihoods. 

“Key infrastructure like national roads have been affected, slowing down the transportation of goods and services that keep our economy running,” he said.

“Property has been destroyed. Cars have been stoned. People have been intimidated and threatened, and some have even been hurt. These acts are endangering lives and damaging our efforts to rebuild the economy.”

The South African National Defence Force has since been deployed in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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