KZN, let’s rebuild after the unrest, looting and the Covid-19 pandemic
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DURBAN - IN AN EFFORT to restore investor confidence, revive KwaZulu-Natal’s fledgling economy and rebuild businesses affected by the Covid-19 lockdown and widespread violence and looting, various stakeholders have joined forces to encourage the private sector to get involved in the province’s rebuilding efforts.
The initiative, which has been dubbed “Rebuild KZN Business: Rebuild, Reconnect and Reconcile”, is being spearheaded by The Mercury along with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the KZN government under the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.
At the core of the Rebuild KZN business initiative is showcasing the positive stories of resilience, and the determination of business owners to rebuild businesses affected by the looting, in order to save jobs and revive the province’s ailing economy. The project also seeks to invite the business community to help the government promote social cohesion following the killings linked to the July riots.
Explaining the initiative, The Mercury editor Philani Mazibuko said the newspaper was excited to be able to bring together government and private businesses in a project aimed at helping economic recovery efforts.
“On September 23 we will publish four pages of content where we will be telling stories of hope, stories of reconciliation and rebuilding and stories of how businesses have decided to stay in this province and participate in changing the narrative, from that of despair and hopelessness, to that of triumph and positive aspirations,” said Mazibuko, adding that the project was earmarked to run for six months.
He invited businesses to get involved in the rebuilding of KZN, saying: “We want to create a platform for positive dialogue in the face of all the doom and gloom.”
Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Palesa Phili said her organisation was committed to fighting the pandemic and its negative effects on the business community.
“The building of our economy is an absolute priority, and is based on five key pillars, which are creating a safe and secure environment to develop trust, identification of Priority Catalytic Projects that will stimulate stability and growth quickly, rapid provision of bulk services, including planning approvals, infrastructure development budget allocation and finally restoring investor confidence.
“The partnership between us and The Mercury comes at a pivotal time in our business community, where we need collective business, in private, public sectors and media to work as a collective towards the recovery of our economy. This partnership will help deliver the message nationally and internationally through the media partnership, it will create awareness and encourage robust dialogue aimed towards delivering tangible recovery programmes that can be understood and utilised by all provincial citizens and business owners,” said Phili.
She emphasised the importance of restoring investor confidence, saying a hospitable, secure, and politically stable environment in which to do business had to be created.
“Investors are seeking destinations with a profitable outlook, safety and security, with minimal risk with no compromise.”
KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, who is leading the province’s economic revival efforts, described KZN as “an economic jewel whose overall potential remains largely untapped”.
“There is a mantra drummed into their players by football coaches, that one never runs to where the ball is.
“One always moves to where the ball will next be played. KwaZulu-Natal is in the position to which the ball will next be played, in clear sight of the goal mouth. In spite of the challenges we have faced, we are certain that better days are before us. As the key political leadership and economic decision-makers we have come armed with a plan.”
Zikalala said the pillars of KZN’s economic recovery in the aftermath of the violence and in the midst of the pandemic included restoration of law and order and enforcement of property rights; achieving stability, peace and tranquility.
“We have gone back to normality; providing a climate conducive for rebuilding and investment; devising strategies to detect and deter future unrests and attaining commonality of purpose and social compacting to derive long-lasting solutions that deal with the causes.”
The eThekwini Municipality also gave the project the thumbs-up, describing it as a noble initiative that sought to rebuild the city after the riots.
Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said: “It comes just after our city has, among others, started with the disbursement of funds to SMMEs, who bore the brunt of the civil unrest.
“We will forever be indebted to you as our important stakeholder, for your unceasing support in our bid to help our city to tell a good story.”
MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ravi Pillay, said the government is encouraged by the resilience and determination of the people of KZN to rise and claim their space in the national and continental economy.
“We are a diverse economy anchored on key strategic strengths such as our ports and the N3 and N2 corridors, our strong manufacturing and industrial base, tourism and massive agricultural potential. In fact we have identified 14 sectors and are working with stakeholders in each sector to devise responses peculiar to each,” said Pillay.
He added that the government has developed a strong partnership with Transnet in implementing the R100 billion port expansion, including back to port logistics. Pillay said every business affected by the unrest has committed to rebuilding and even to expanding.
“These include Cipla (a major pharmaceutical), Shoprite and Massmart. We are working with Sasria to accelerate insurance payouts and DTI for relief for the uninsured. We can only achieve a thriving economy if we are united. Our social compact is therefore crucial. Our partnership between government, business, labour and civil society must be strengthened and cascaded to every district and municipality.”