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Experts warn unrest in South Africa could deter investors, worsen food insecurity


People throw stones at police as they attempt looting at Letsoho Shopping Centre in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, South Africa.  Courtesy photo

Johannesburg, South Africa | Xinhua | The looting of shops, burning of trucks, and destruction of property in South Africa following the jailing of former South African President Jacob Zuma could discourage potential investors from investing in the country and worsen food insecurity, experts have warned.

“The Minerals Council South Africa condemns the acts of violence and looting that have been spreading through various parts of the country. We are deeply concerned about the loss of life,” said the council’s spokesperson Charmane Russell on Wednesday.

He said the destruction of assets and the consequent impact on livelihoods will have devastating consequences and will interrupt the hard-won vaccination roll-out.

“And the images of mayhem playing across screens in South Africa and abroad will have a lasting impact in discouraging investment,” he added.

Russell called for the protection of key infrastructure, particularly power, telecommunications, water, road and rail which would assist in the economic recovery.

Meanwhile, worries about food security in the country are also mounting during the unrest. Agri SA Executive Director Christo van der Rheede warned that if the unrest that has claimed at least 72 lives is not dealt with urgently, losses in the agricultural sector could be running into billions next week.

“Our farmers can’t get their fresh produce on the road to the market,” he told Xinhua on Wednesday, the impact of this could be detrimental to the economy.

While the situation was calm in Gauteng on Wednesday, certain parts of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) were still on fire, with looting ongoing. People in areas such as Durban were already short of food.

“People in certain parts of KZN can’t access basics such as milk, bread and other fresh produce, it’s a humanitarian crisis. KZN is a major producer of foods like sugar and banana. Some sugar cane farms have been burnt down over the last five days,” he said.

He said farmers could not even export their produce due to the unrest which began over former president Jacob Zuma’s jailing.

“Exporting products to the rest of the world at the Durban harbor has come to a halt,” van der Rheede said, farmers have also stopped harvesting citrus due to the situation. Shortages of fuel were being felt too.

State Security Deputy Minister Zizi Kodwa said on Wednesday that this was planned economic sabotage.

The instigators are sitting somewhere trying to destabilize this country. That is why they are cutting distribution and supply, he said. “They want to destabilize the country. They are cutting distribution from here (Gauteng) to KZN so that there could be panic in the country.”

“They want people to have no bread,” Kodwa said, adding people were being paid to destroy the infrastructure.

“The damage done to the image of South Africa and the future economic growth is going to be significantly harder. This is besides the billions of rand set to be lost,” chief economist at the Efficient Group Dawie Roodt told Xinhua.

Prof Jannie Rossouw, Head of School of Economic and Business Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, said “this would result in less employment growth as there would be less business to employ people. If a shop has been burnt, that shop can’t employ its workers.”

The former president was sentenced to a 15-month jail term in June for defying a Constitutional Court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating corruption during his nine years in office until 2018.

Television footage and videos shared on social media show rioters making off with big-screen TVs and stripping cars at a vehicle dealership of their engines and wheels.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday evening that some 489 suspects in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces had been arrested and all government agencies had been mobilized.



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