Demonstrators loot stores as protests continue in Katlehong, South Africa, July 12, 2021. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko.
The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) as well as Agri SA have condemned the destruction of property and ongoing looting of retail shops which is posing a serious threat to food security in the country.

The protests started in KwaZulu-Natal and have since spread to other areas such as Johannesburg.

“Such acts of wanton criminality have no place in democratic South Africa,” CGCSA said in a statement. 

CGCSA said that it is particularly concerned about the potential impact of the disruptions on food security in the country and various supply chain issues. “This is because factories will not be able to produce, resulting in food shortages, which will affect the most vulnerable and poor most,” the council said.

“Small retailers and independents are also being targeted and where will people in townships get food when everything is destroyed.” 

“The loss to retailers, including the cost of damage to property and delivery vehicles, runs into millions of rand and has already severely affected their operations. The potential impact on business viability and job security is also a serious cause for concern,” CGCSA said.

Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA shared the same sentiments, noting that “The looting of shops, stoning of cars, blocking of roads, burning of trucks and crops, as well as theft of livestock, are posing a serious threat to food security in the country.” 

“SA runs the risk of people not being able to buy or access food. This will lead to hunger and starvation on a national scale, which in turn will fuel even more social unrest and mayhem,” says Rheede.

CGCSA said the right to peaceful protest is a constitutional right, but when it degenerates into violence, destruction of property and disruption of business, it should be firmly dealt with by the law enforcement agencies.

In this regard, the CGCSA welcomes the strong condemnation of the violence by President Ramaphosa, and the decision by the government to deploy the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) in the affected areas, to assist the police and other law enforcement agencies to bring normality. 

“This will send a clear message that lawlessness will not be tolerated neither will be any attempt to disrupt economic and social life through violence and looting,” CGCSA said.

CGCSA said it is worried that the disruption to business activity and destruction of commercial property will further delay the recovery of the economy from successive lockdown restrictions and also affect the already fragile investor and business confidence.

“The fact that the government has extended the lockdown for another 14 days, with liquor sales remaining banned, is not helping the situation and will worsen the financial crisis facing liquor retailers and those in the value chain.

“Furthermore, the disruption to and closure of key transport routes can potentially affect the supply chain of retail products which could in turn create shortages of basic commodities throughout the country,” the organisation said.

Agri SA has also appealed to the Presidency to declare a national state of emergency, which it said should go hand in hand with the deployment of security personnel in all affected areas.

“In addition, we also call on the Presidency to ensure that our logistical infrastructure such as roads, harbours and airports continue to function in order for food to be delivered,” Agri SA said in a statement.

CGCSA is engaging with the relevant authorities to provide them with information on the impact of the violence and is also liaising with law enforcement agencies to provide information to assist them in their response to the violence and looting.