Comment by the Chief Executive Officer of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ms Palesa Phili, on the N2 South Coast protests

The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomes the opportunity to comment on the service delivery protests in the South Coast, where protesters have blockaded sections of the N2 South between Bhobhoyi and Murchison in Port Shepstone. The protests have been extremely violent and destructive with reports of protesters forcing truck drivers transporting quarry stone being forced to offload their cargo in order to cause further blockages, stoning vehicles and burning tyres and other debris.

The Durban Chamber acknowledges that there have been many complaints from the local community about the poor condition of the D1014 road in Bhobhoyi, which many in the local community use on a daily basis. However, to resort to and cause such wanton destruction and chaos is criminal and counterproductive as it causes further damage to the road network and disrupts economic activity. This can threaten jobs and revenue with short- and long-term effects on the economy.

The Durban Chamber strongly condemns any acts of violence and destructive behaviour as the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) economy is heavily reliant on the transport and logistics sectors and therefore our road network forms part of critical economic infrastructure in the region.

Any disruptions to this infrastructure can have a serious impact on the local and provincial economy. Additionally, the nature of these disruptive behaviours can negatively impact KZN’s reputation and investment profile.

The fact that the protests have been so protracted is particularly damaging as prolonged disruptive behaviour of this nature, for such a critical part of our economic infrastructure, will severely impact the entire logistics value chain from trucking companies to receiving businesses. Not to mention the employees across industries who have been unable to commute to work.

These situations all have either a direct or indirect impact on the rest of the business community as uncertainty and delays in freight turnaround times can lead to additional costs for business such as unplanned shutdowns and loss of productivity which can, in turn, lead to higher consumer prices as well as.

The Durban Chamber maintains that negotiation is vital at this stage to reduce the ripple effects this blockade can have on our economy. It is important that immediate action is taken to reduce the negative impact on business and that all parties involved enter into a discourse that will result in an equitable resolution for all concerned.

The Durban Chamber requests that law enforcement agencies ensure that they are visible, timely in responses, decisive in action and provide full coverage along affected areas in order to effectively manage the traffic congestion as well as ensure the safety and security of the vehicles affected and the community at large. Protests of this nature cannot be allowed to be so protracted and law enforcement agencies need to quickly resolve and manage these situations in order to minimise their impact.

The Durban Chamber also encourages businesses working or operating in the area to be cautious and to employ risk management strategies to minimise the risk to their employees and their business. Additionally, the Chamber encourages the business community to monitor the media and news in order to make informed decisions over the next few days.

The Durban Chamber requests that our members report all business-related issues resulting from the N2 protests to Yolan Nagoor, Manager: Policy and Advocacy, at nagoory@durbanchamber.co.za or on 031 335 1000.