Top agricultural leaders have urged government to intensify actions against criminals to protect the economy, food security and livelihoods. This, as residents in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are already raising alarm that they are struggling to find bread after widespread looting.
Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede says President Cyril Ramaphosa can only address the looting of food supplies, the destruction of shops and the blocking of roads by ensuring that law-and-order and security agencies do their jobs.
“We have the current [level 4 lockdown] disaster regulations and that must be implemented more effectively. If we do not get food into areas where shops were burnt down and where infrastructure was completely destroyed, we are going to have serious trouble going forward,” says Van der Rheede.
“So, on the one one hand you sit with a few people that have looted the shops. They sit with the stock in their houses, and they don’t care whether the rest of our communities go hungry. That is criminal and unethical.
“There is no justification for the fact that they have destroyed the food supply network to the extent that we will see rising hunger in KwaZulu-Natal. That type of cowardice must be addressed, and those looters must face the full might of the law because this is completely unacceptable,” concludes Van der Rheede.
Agbiz chief executive Dr John Purchase says his organisation and Business Unity South Africa (Busa) had various engagements with government to address the ongoing looting and anarchy in parts of the country.
“The government didn’t have the intelligence that this was going to happen. So, both the crime intelligence and state security intelligence have failed dismally in providing the necessary intelligence to combat these ways of criminality.
“We are trying to assist government where we can with information [that can lead to a crack down on looters]. We also had a meeting with the national police commissioner [general Khehla Sitole] to assist them with information and intelligence.”
Purchase tells Food For Mzansi that Agbiz could do this because it has a footprint in nearly all of the country’s rural areas and districts.
Government’s own fault?
Nakana Masoka, secretary-general of Afasa, also believes that government should have no mercy for looters.
“It is a no-no and it should be stopped in all ways possible. Therefore, the security and law and order system must come in and quell the illegal, unfortunate damage to property and looting. It has a very serious impact on our economy and jobs.”
Masoka adds that certain socio-political matters should have been addressed 27 years ago with the birth of South Africa’s democracy.
“Government has chosen to rely on the current white economy. The business of government is just to protect white businesses. It is white people that create jobs. It is white people that are holding on to the economy.
“Our government for years has not been bold enough to build a black economy because they feel it will upset the white economy. Until we get to a point where government takes bold steps … we will forever have these kinds of riots.”
All looters should be jailed
Meanwhile, Joe Scholtz, chairperson of the rural safety and stock theft committee at Agri Northern Cape, criminals have more freedom than most citizens.
“If the police started with their actions quicker, we would not have had so many losses today. The criminals who are looting and burning buildings are less than 5% of the country’s population.
“It is painful that those people have such a great influence in the destruction of our economy. We are trying to rebuild our country [for a brighter future after] Covid-19 and they are destroying it. The president must put [classify] KwaZulu-Natal as a danger area and put all those people in jail.”