Organised business has welcomed assurances from the government regarding steps being taken to combat the lawlessness that has characterised the ongoing unprotected strike by eThekwini’s municipal workers.

Due to concerns over the economic losses that have been sustained by local businesses and socio-economic impact on the City, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Growth Coalition, the Minara Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders requested an urgent audience with Sihle Zikalala, the KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) and Siza Sibanda, the KZN EDTEA Head of Department.

MEC Zikalala

At the meeting, leaders from organised business sought to gain clarity on the cause of the strike and to secure reassurance that the City’s response would be robust enough to adequately respond to the instability and lawlessness being observed.

MEC Zikalala assured the representatives of organised business present that the Premier of KZN and the Provincial Executive believes that strong action and leadership is required.

“That is why a government intervention task team, led the MEC for Public Works and Human Settlement, Ravi Pillay and MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, was appointed to work with the municipality, organised labour and other stakeholders to address challenges and resolve this matter”, said Zikalala.

“We are committed to working with organised business to protect the status of KwaZulu-Natal as South Africa’s second-largest economy and to ensure the future prosperity and inclusive economic development and growth of the City and Province. We cannot afford to lose our hard-won economic gains or compromise our investment profile”, said Zikalala.

Andrzej Kiepiela, the co-chair of the KZN Growth Coalition and Dean of the Diplomatic Core, stated that the striking workers exhibited a shocking lack of compliance with of the laws and by-laws of the City, Province and Country.

“Initially there was a lack of communication, leadership and enforcement of the laws and by-laws as disturbing images and videos have been widely shared on social media as well as other media channels depicting these acts occurring in the presence of law enforcement without action being taken”, added Kiepiela.

“We are relieved to hear that arrests have now been made and action is being taken by law enforcement to re-establish and re-enforce the rule of law as well the proactive action taken to counteract attempts at sabotage at key infrastructure points,” added Kiepiela.

“The situation needs to be dealt with as swiftly as possible as any delays will seek to undermine the efforts of government in building a strong and robust KZN economy,” said Ebrahim Patel, Director of the Minara Chamber of Commerce.

“Organised business is deeply concerned by the ongoing strike by the City’s Water and Sanitation Unit including Durban Solid Waste as they represent critical service infrastructure for the City,” said Musa Makhunga, President of the Durban Chamber.

“The business community is encouraged by the actions taken by the Premier of KZN and the Provincial Executive so far and that some normalcy has been restored to the City after numerous acts of violence, destruction and sabotage. The cost of the damage to date has
been reported to be around R3,5 million, but
this excludes the impact on the economy, repetitional damage as well as the cost of other short-term interventions aimed at alleviating shortages and risks arising from the protests. We hope that the government’s task team remains proactive in addressing this issue with open lines of communication in order to alleviate further losses,” added Makhunga.

Palesa Phili, CEO of the Durban Chamber, stated that going forward an effective crisis management strategy and an action plan needs to be instituted to address emergencies of this nature in order to limit the disruptive and destructive impact on our City’s infrastructure, businesses, community and economy.

“A clear channel for communication also needs to be set up in order for the City and its officials to immediately address issues as well as effectively provide feedback and share information and actions with organised business and the community at large. This will limit speculation, dissuade sensationalism and fake news, allay any fears and uncertainties as well as allow business and the public to make informed decisions on how to proceed when faced with an emergency or crisis of this nature,” concluded Phili.