South African riots will cost cross-border economies

By Petrus Haikela Hanghuwo /

The on-going unrest in South Africa (SA) which is said to have been incited by former president Jacob Zuma’s incarceration will have ripple effects across the economies in the SADC region.

Supporters of the former president began to protest after the imprisonment of Mr Jacob Zuma. They demanded for his immediate release.

A short while after the political protest, riots started and widespread looting of shops went on for days.

Some media indicated that it’s now clear that the effect of the lockdown is what incited the unrest. Community members began to demolish and loot the malls especially in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal to be precise. The stores were broken into and goods were looted as a result of the mayhem.

A similar mayhem happened in England in 2011, after the death of a black prisoner who was believed to have died in the hands of the white police officers. It resulted in protests in black communities and white minority groups also joined in and it ended in the looting of some major shopping malls.

In the end it cost the government dearly as it had to create recovery measures to the recession period in the country which people had caused knowingly.

The current situation in South Africa will end in a serious damage to the economy, which will not only affect the economy of that country but other countries that rely on South Africa for exports and imports are also affected.

The most affected nations are Namibia and Zimbabwe. The stores Shoprite and Pick `n Pay which were reported to have been looted and emptied are multinational enterprises.

This therefore leads to a shortage in the supply of goods from these companies in all countries.

While we are here, let’s also talk a little about the local economy of SA; while the bigger stores are registered with the insurance companies and can be funded by their insurance companies to renovate the demolishment by looters, smaller markets will suffer lack of funds and some may not open anymore which translates into job losses.

While South Africans’ anger over the jailing of Mr Zuma might be justified, they simply have failed to mind about the shortage of food to locals and unemployment. The looting has not only disrupted the malls, banks as ATMs were also broken, but the agricultural industry is also disrupted.

A dairy farmer in the Ixopo area of KwaZulu-Natal province informed the media that he had to throw away 28 000 litres of milk which is worth R160 000 because the transport company refused to risk its trucks to deliver the milk across the country as there were unrest and damage to the properties incidents taking place.

The farmer indicated that he will need to repair the farm as it sustained minor damages. Moreover, looters cut the fence of some game reserve parks and let the wild animals out. As a result a man was attacked by tigers and killed. This is sad to see and hear.

We understand people have the right to protest, but there is no right granted to damaging of properties. We have also read that Cubans recently protested against poor and weak governing in the country, but there were no riots reported. The root cause of the South African looting is yet to be clarified as the former president’s incarceration is just a shallow excuse.

If the shops in Namibia run out of stock, they will have to shut and wait for a long period to receive the stock from SA. It will take a couple of months for things to normalise. They will concentrate on repairing their buildings and properties first. Thus, the Namibian economy will also suffer from food shortages.

It is not only the food industry that was affected; stores such as Pep stores were included in the list. The whole country is in such a mess that what started as a political protest has ended up in the disruption of other sectors, to such extent that in a Hillbrow clinic in Johannesburg a six-month old baby was shot in the head by a stray rubber bullet.

In the end the government will deal with deaths across the country and the serious damage to the economy.

In my opinion, the SA government must find a way to bring everything to a halt before the centres and malls that are yet not looted get attacked. It is not time to engage in political discussions, but the whole South African government need to take a concrete stand and rescue the total economy.

— Petrus Haikela Hanghuwo is a teacher specialising in business and economics, a graduate of the University of Namibia (2020).