Well-known political economist Moeletsi Mbeki believes the widespread anarchy and looting currently experienced in parts of South Africa is the direct result of what the ANC government failed to do in the last 27 years.
Speaking to Food For Mzansi, he said, “During the last 27 years [of democracy], government focused on the welfare of black middle class and neglected the interest of the large majority of poor people in South Africa.”
Covid-19 has exacerbated joblessness and poverty in the country with nearly half of the adult population now living in poverty, according to Statistics South Africa.
Experts say many of the poor are among the thousands of people who have this week participated in riots and looting.
Francois Wilken, president of Free State Agriculture, says President Cyril Ramaphosa must be tougher on the perpetrators because their actions will cost the economy dearly.
“In some instances, they say that it is the poor that don’t have food that are doing this, but if you look at the videos, it seems that it’s not actually the poorest of the poor who are looting. It seems more like the middle class that are responsible for what is happening at the moment,” he believes.
Wilken is concerned that looters do not seem to be aware of the consequences of their actions.
“They are busy destroying the economy and also our role in the world economy. Now investors will reconsider investing in South Africa and, at this stage, we can’t afford it.”
Meanwhile, independent political analyst Theo Venter argues that government should implement a state of emergency in KwaZulu-Natal, one of the provinces that have been most hit by this week’s anarchy.
“I wouldn’t expand something like a state of emergency across the country. Not all places are currently experiencing the problem, but KwaZulu-Natal is a special case and I would definitely advise stricter measures [in this province].”
Venter also warns that the looting of malls and shops and the burning of trucks is exhausting food supplies which will leave the country in a far worse position.
He urges government to act with far more resolve because he does not believe the 2 500 soldiers assisting 180 000 police officers is good enough.
“I don’t think people realise that with the trucks being burned and malls being burned, food stocks will be depleted soon. And if there is a shortage of food, food prices increase. The food security issue is not only [about] the availability of food, but also the cost of food.
“What we are seeing at the moment is extremely counterproductive. What people are now taking [looting], they are going to pay for later on whether it is [through] increased fuel prices or increased bread prices.”
Fears for farmers’ safety
Afasa chairperson Neo Masithela also tells Food For Mzansi that the farmers’ organisation is greatly concerned about the current political climate and widespread looting.
“This has a huge bearing on production by farmers. If we have to produce and we are worried that the producer who is supposed to go to the farm is targeted, it will create a huge problem for food security.
“For instance, farmers are not [all] feed producers. They must get their feed from somebody else and if the trucks that bring the feed to their place are stopped [by rioters], they won’t be able to produce. This also affects farmworkers.”
Henry Geldenhuys, the president of TLU SA, is disappointed in the way Ramaphosa and the government is handling the current crisis. “It is one thing to say we should not break down the country and rather build the economy.
‘The ANC can’t blame Zuma for looting’
“But it is something completely different to truly lead and implement the correct economic principles over any other aspects so that the economy can be built up.
“It is wrong to think the current unrest paralysing the country is the consequence of dissatisfied [Jacob] Zuma supporters. To the contrary, that was simply the spark to ignite a situation TLU SA had been predicting for quite some time.”
“We ask that the president’s instructions be implemented with immediate effect to prevent further criminality. Agri SA welcomes government’s urgent decision to deploy the defence force in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng to support of the police.”
Agri SA president Pierre Vercueil welcomes the president’s condemnation of the criminality and lawlessness.
Criminals should not be tolerated, believes Vercueil. “We urge the police to use all their resources to prevent this criminality from spreading and to arrest the perpetrators.”