The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) on Monday condemned “in the strongest terms the looting of businesses, damage to property and intimidation and victimisation of people”.
CEO, Alan Mukoki, said that whilst the right to peaceful protest is one of the fundamental rights in our constitutional democracy, “what we are experiencing now with this violence that is targeted at looting and damaging public infrastructure, is pure criminality by marauding gangs who are masquerading as protesters.
“There is no legitimate protest that is based on breaking and entering business premises to steal goods and damage property.”
He said that the SACCI is calling on all political and community leaders to refrain from making utterances that are fuelling the situation.
“We also call for people to stop spreading stories that are not true on social media platforms. The mischaracterisation of marauding criminal gangs whose sole intent is to use the cover of a ‘political protest’ narrative, as ‘protesters’ is both unfortunate and misleading,” Mukoki said.
“The media should avoid giving legitimacy to criminals by calling them protesters.
“We urge the police to act decisively and arrest and urgently prosecute the perpetrators of this criminality. The image of South Africa as an investment destination is being damaged by the minute.
“Business has been the main target of this violent criminality, and this has to stop as our economy is struggling. This will further add to unemployment and delay South Africa’s reconstruction and recovery plan.”
Mukoki further said that South Africa is a constitutional democracy with the rule of law at its centre.
“The majority of South Africans are law abiding citizens who understand and respect the constitution and the supremacy of the decisions of the constitutional court,” he noted.
“Politicians and other social media commentators should refrain from unwarranted and unjustifiable attacks against the judiciary and the constitutional court in particular.
“Undermining the decisions of the courts will only lead to anarchy and instability.
“Lastly, social media platforms life Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Tik Tok and others have sufficient technology to know, isolate and ban those of their users who are spreading fake news, and posting content that is intended to spread violence and promote wanton criminality.
“We urge them as they did in the USA during the attack on the Capitol, to identify and suspend the account users of those who spread fake news and lies to promote the perpetuation and fuelling of criminality through the use of their social media accounts.”
Mukoki said that this type of objectionable content includes the spreading of deliberate lies and unwarranted attacks against the judiciary and court decisions by people in influential positions.
“SACCI in no way promotes censorship of legitimate criticisms of the judiciary, the courts and its decisions. What we are cautioning against is the spreading of fake news and perpetration of deliberate lies to cause mass confusion and inflame an already volatile situation and spread further violence,” he also said that.
“As a matter of fact, the social media accounts of the former President of the USA, Donald Trump and many others, still remain suspended due to spreading dangerous fake news and content.
“We also note that, whatever the grievance may be, this violent destruction of business, property and the intimidation of truck drivers, closure of major arterial roads, burning of trucks and damage to business equipment has been happening intermittently now for many months and precedes any recent constitutional court ruling against the former President.
“Law enforcement should get to the bottom of this instigation as a matter of urgency, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these violent criminal acts.”