News in South Africa 19th July:
1. Looting damages excessive:
It is not yet clear just how extensive the destruction of particularly retail and warehouse property and the looting of stock in the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng was.
On Friday night (July 16), President Cyril Ramaphosa referenced “preliminary reports compiled by NatJoints [the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure]” which said “extensive damage has been caused to 161 malls and shopping centres, 11 warehouses, 8 factories and 161 liquor outlets and distributors”.
Earlier in the week, the South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa) said “some 800 stores have been looted and 100 malls have been either been burnt down or have suffered significant fire damage and a number of distribution centres particularly in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, have been looted with serious structural destruction”.
Both the NatJoints and the Sapoa figures are on the low side.
With thousands of formal stores, factories and warehouses impacted, the R5 billion-plus number is too low. Independent analysts say that Durban’s losses are R20 billion alone, in loss of stock and damage to property, while the whole bill probably comes closer to R50 billion.
Listed retailers have counted damages at 1,048 stores – with non-listed stores, this could easily surpass 3,000. This is even before factoring in the informal outlets which were also impacted.
The major banks have also been guarded with their disclosures.
The Banking Association of South Africa says “over 1 400 automatic teller machines (ATMs) and close to 300 bank branches and post office outlets have been vandalised in the ongoing violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng … To safeguard their employees, banks were compelled to close over 1 300 branches between 12 and 14 July”.
A total of 150 000 jobs are at risk because of the looting, damage, and unrest.
However, many of the impacted retailers have quietly confirmed that jobs will not be cut while stores are restocked and rebuilt.
2. Restaurant industry devastated:
Covid-19 lockdowns have devastated the restaurant industry – and the country’s recent re-shuttering of all establishments for two weeks further exacerbated the situation.
Eighteen months into the pandemic, it’s a scenario restaurant owners now know well. In 2020, many restaurants around the world rapidly shifted from fine dining to dining out in order to stay in business – but many local establishments initially chose to remain closed rather than absorb the costs of turning their operation into a takeaway one.
During the early stages of last year’s first hard lockdown, owners of some high-end restaurants stated that they would not open for takeaways – in spite of this being the only avenue for some.
At the time, publicist Ian Manley, who represents several chefs and restaurants, said that often it did not make financial sense for a high-end establishment to open its kitchen simply to serve takeaways.
But 14 months later, most restaurants in the country seem to have changed tack and are now offering some form of in-home dining option. And it’s now possible to order a whole range of items as takeaways few would ever have imagined. Among them are fillet mignon, pork belly, Norwegian salmon, and crayfish.
Most high-end establishments are operating on collection only or their own in-house delivery services. But some have gone into full delivery mode and are now plugged into the country’s major food delivery apps Uber Eats and Mr D.
Even though restaurants are now able to reopen with limited capacity, most have continued to offer a hybrid eat-in, takeaway approach. And some of South Africa’s most celebrated high-end restaurants continue to offer a variety of options as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.
3. SAA and Pilot Association reach deal:
A deal between South African Airways and the SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA) has finally been sealed. This follows the in-principle agreement earlier in July, with a 94.9 percent majority vote in its favour.
According to the terms of the agreement, SAAPA members will be retrenched based on their current salaries. Overall, this is still below what they would be entitled to under the regulating agreement.
SAA Pilots Association chairperson Grant Back says that the deal is the best under the circumstances.
“We haven’t been paid in 16 months. We’ve been locked out since 18 December and we’ve been on strike since 1 April. Since the onset the company had adopted starting us out, not having paid us what they owed us in 2019,” Back said.
SAAPA said SAA had taken a ‘starve them out’ approach with the pilots and ignored all alternatives presented to it to help save jobs. SAA had 750 pilots at the onset of its business rescue and now has 88.
4. Basic income grant a possibility:
President Cyril Ramaphosa says that the government is currently investigating the feasibility of introducing a basic income grant in South Africa.
Speaking at a Mandela Day memorial lecture on Sunday (18 July), the president said that the grant would show people ‘that the government cared’, BusinessDay reported.
“This will validate our people and show them that we are giving serious consideration to their lives.
“We are giving active consideration to the grinding poverty that we continue to see in our country. We need to address the structural inequalities in our economy,” he said.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has also called for the introduction of a basic income grant as part of a response to the massive socioeconomic fallout from the riots in KZN and Gauteng.
“In responding to the crisis, the South African government has no choice but to abandon its austerity framework and choose an expansionary fiscal policy framework,” Cosatu said. “This moment calls for a change of mindset and an acknowledgement of the fact that the current unemployment and poverty levels are not sustainable.”
5. Defense minister says no coup attempt:
Just before President Cyril Ramaphosa repeated earlier comments and told an ANC Mandela Day event that recent violence that hit SA was part of an insurrection, his defence minister seemingly contradicted him in parliament.
Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, speaking at a parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Defence on Sunday evening about the security situation in the country, said she did not have evidence to indicate the recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng “so far talks to an insurrection or a coup”.
This was in response to a question by the UDM’s Bantu Holomisa, who asked exactly what situation the country was faced with. She said neither possibility – a coup or an insurrection – had come forward “with a face”.
Mapisa-Nqakula said it was her view that the military was instead seeing signs of a “counter-revolution creeping in, in the form of criminality and thuggery”.
However, this is in conflict with the information given out by Ramaphosa when he addressed the nation on Friday night. He described the unrest as a “failed insurrection” attempt.
On Sunday night, Ramaphosa told the ANC event: “It is clear now the events of the past week were a deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy, on our economy and our people’s livelihoods. Our young democracy and our movement are going through, at the moment, a very difficult time.
“Our survival as a constitutional democracy, committed to the rule of law, is under threat. Very serious attempts were – and continue to be – made to instigate unrest, insurrection against the government led by the governing party.