Johannesburg – At least 40 000 South African businesses were looted, burnt or vandalised during widespread rioting that broke out after the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma, the government said on Tuesday.
Hundreds of shopping centres and warehouses in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province were ransacked beginning on July 9.
The rampage later spread to Johannesburg, inflicting a devastating blow to an economy already battered by the coronavirus.
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, minister in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office, told reporters that “40 000 businesses were affected” in KZN.
The total losses to the national economy are estimated to be 50 billion rand ($3.4 billion), according to a government statement.
In KZN, 161 malls and a similar number of liquor outlets and distributors were “extensively damaged”, Ntshavheni said.
More than 200 shopping centres and 100 malls were looted or burnt, while at least 1 400 ATMs were damaged and 300 banks and post offices vandalised in the southeastern province.
Meanwhile a total of 90 pharmacies were destroyed “beyond revival” as the country grapples with a brutal coronavirus third wave.
Ramaphosa told business leaders Tuesday that “there is virtually no part of the economy that has not been affected by the violence”.
Damage to businesses is still being assessed in Gauteng province, which includes the economic hub of Johannesburg, Ntshavheni said.
KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are South Africa’s most populous provinces and account for half of the country’s GDP.
Ramaphosa has admitted that his government was “not sufficiently” prepared for violence and that security forces could have responded quicker.
The violence has abated after claiming 215 lives, the government said, with no incident reported over the past 24 hours.
At least 200 of more than 2 500 suspects have appeared in court for looting and public violence.
The unrest erupted after Zuma began serving a 15-month jail term for snubbing a corruption inquiry.
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