July unrest: One year later, Durban businesses still feel unsafe

  • Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Palesa Phili has said that business confidence in KwaZulu-Natal is down following the July 2021 unrest.
  • She said at the recent House and Home Garden Show in Durban, 40% of businesses outside the province declined to join due to security concerns.
  • Phili said one of the biggest shortfalls during the unrest was the failure of national police, Metro police, private security firms and CPFs to coordinate.

The head of the business authority in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal’s economic hub, says business confidence is low after the July 2021 unrest, with many still citing safety concerns.

“Do business owners and investors feel their investments are safe and secure? The first answer is going to be no,” Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Palesa Phili said on Friday.

She was speaking at a press briefing at Makro in Springfield, Durban, after hasty site visits by Premier Sihle Zikalala to the unrest areas in the city,

The Makro branch had been destroyed during unrest and looting last year.

While Zikalala attempted to paint a picture of business confidence throughout the day to the media, Phili was more grounded and firmer in her assessment of the state of the local economy and business.

She stressed that many businesses chose not to participate in the popular House and Garden Show held at the International Convention Centre.

“Mostly recently we had a house and home event that lasted for over a week. The feedback we received is that 40% of companies that were supposed to come from outside of KZN chose not to come because they felt this is not a safe province. This remains a concern to us as a business community.”

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She said safety was also a concern throughout the business community in Durban.

“The majority of businesses do not know what the plans are or what is happening from a security point of view.”

The biggest challenge for business was the lack of intelligence on the ground about what was coming, Phili said.

“Worse was that SAPS Metro police, private security firms and CPFs were not working together.”

Since then however, Phili said lines of communication were more open, “to ensure there is proper coordination between these three elements”.

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“Those of us that have had engagements with law enforcement communities and the work we are putting on the ground, we believe there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

“There is a bit of improvement in the collaboration of working together with law enforcement, and we would like to see more.”

She lauded the work of provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi.

“He has been wanting to work with private security and business so we don’t have looting. Something we need to do is to go out there and share with business what we are doing on the ground from a security point of view, so they are clear.

“Majority of businesses were clear, they do not want the businesses to go down. We are not going to allow it to go down,” Phili said.