Brookside Mall in Pietermaritzburg on fire during unrest. Picture: Screen grab.
Brookside Mall in Pietermaritzburg on fire during unrest. Picture: Screen grab.

Pietermaritzburg hit hard by looting, service delivery halted by unrest

By Sibusiso Mboto, Karen Singh Time of article published Jul 13, 2021

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DURBAN - AS LOOTING continued across parts of the province yesterday, the capital city of Pietermaritzburg was particularly hard hit with malls and shops in the CBD looted and some set alight.

Kantha Naidoo of Business Fighting Crime in Pietermaritzburg said the situation in the city was out of control.

“Unfortunately we can only try as much as we can by appealing to companies to protect their stuff but there is only so much they can do,” she said.

Naidoo said protesters were starting fires everywhere to distract people while they looted.

“We are standing here trying to figure out how to put out the fires so that the houses don’t get burnt and we can’t go into town,” she said.

She said the company that she works for owns property at Edendale Mall as well as a warehouse in Eastwood, which was destroyed.

Naidoo said the community were afraid and anxious.

“The public are so anxious, frustrated and angry that this could have happened and was allowed to happen, because it’s not like we were not warned,” she said.

She said by the time a few soldiers had arrived it had been too late, stores were already damaged.

“In Pietermaritzburg we’re looking at about 30 or more stores damaged and it’s going to be so hard for us to recover,” she said.

Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business chief executive Melanie Veness said: “These are devastating times for our city, our province and our country. The financial losses are immense, hundreds of millions of rand have been lost to opportunistic looting, wanton destruction and pure criminality.

“The immediate financial losses are only part of the cost to the economy and to each one of us. The true cost will be felt going forward in lost investment. Business will navigate an environment for as long as it makes sense to do so, and when it doesn’t, they’ll redeploy their assets elsewhere.

“Our economy is not a political football and the livelihoods of decent people are not anyone’s to gamble with. Nobody has the right to stomp on the constitutional rights of ordinary citizens to obtain a desired political outcome.

“Our reputation has been severely dented and governments’ seeming unwillingness to respond appropriately and immediately hasn’t helped. Our already fragile economy is in further tatters now and we’ll all be poorer for it.”

The Msunduzi Municipality advised that its municipal services had been affected by the unrest with several of its offices closed. The city said refuse collection would not be taking place and the New England landfill site was closed.

“The municipality will share updates via the social media platforms. While the municipality remains committed to minimising the service delivery disruptions, the safety of employees and the assets of the municipality remains paramount,” it said in a statement.

In eThekwini, with looting continuing throughout yesterday, the municipality issued a statement stating that the city’s Sizakala customer service centres, including contact centres, were unable to function as normal and were closed.

“Customers who have reported water, sanitation and other service delivery faults are requested to be patient as there might be delays in having such faults attended to. Queries will be attended to when the safety and security situation stabilises.

“Waste collection and street sweeping services have been suspended until further notice. Homeowners and businesses are requested to keep waste inside the premises, including all green municipal wheelie bins.”

The city said that all municipal Parks, Recreation and Culture depots, nature reserves and nurseries, Botanic and Japanese gardens, zoos, Mitchell Park and the Bird Park, swimming pools, libraries, cemeteries and crematoria were closed.

THE MERCURY

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