KZN still on course to rebuild in aftermath of July 2021 unrest – Zikalala

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala says the July 2021 social unrest left many households in untold suffering and desperation.

Zikalala made the remarks on the one-year anniversary of the July civil unrest, where 354 people lost their lives.

The Premier undertook “Operation Siyahlola” on Friday 8 July to assess progress in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the sites that were destroyed during the unrest and looting that took place last year.

The operation included a visit to businesses in uMlazi, KwaMashu, Nandi Drive and Springfield Park, where the Premier assessed the damage inflicted on businesses.

Some of the businesses have risen from the ashes of destruction and are back in operation.

Addressing media on what the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, in collaboration with business partners, are doing to rebuild the province, Zikalala said just when the province thought it had ridden the storm, the April floods reminded citizens, yet again, how vulnerable they are to the vagaries of the fast-changing global weather patterns.

“These external shocks had a severe socio-economic impact on the economy of KwaZulu-Natal, resulting in low economic growth and unemployment breaching the 30% mark in the third quarter of 2020.

“Until now, poverty levels had risen sharply and billions worth of rands were wiped off the economy due to infrastructure damage, company liquidations and loss of household income,” Zikalala said.

Rising from the ashes

Despite the evidently clear socio-economic problems confronting the province, Zikalala said key trends are indicative of an economy that is “rising from the ashes”.

“Our GDP grew by 1.9% in the first quarter of 2022, although output is still lower than the pre-COVID levels. Our unemployment rate marginally declined in the first quarter of 2022 from 35% to 34.5%. Major investments have come through to our shores, indicating the confidence that investors still have in our economy,” Zikalala said.

With the lifting of the final COVID-19 restrictions, the KwaZulu-Natal economy is set for increased economic activity, particularly within the tourism sector, which was boosted massively by the Durban July a few weeks ago.

“The return of airlines such as SAA [South African Airways], Turkish, Qatar, and new routes such as Durban-Harare, Durban-Eswatini, are expected to boost tourism further. The sovereign credit rating agency, S&P Global, has upgraded its outlook for South Africa to positive from stable, which is a welcome development for the economy of KwaZulu-Natal,” the Premier said.

Building social cohesion

Zikalala said the province is undertaking a deliberate programme of socio-economic integration to prevent the recurrence of violence among the different races of KwaZulu-Natal, and to deepen the roots of social cohesion.

He said government is resolute in ensuring that some of the fault lines that exacerbated the tragedies witnessed during the unrest are being dealt with.

“What the unrest taught us is that government needs to move with both agility, urgency and speed in reducing socio-economic inequalities because this is the only way social cohesion will be achieved.

“All reports delivered post the unrest are very clear that the racialised economy, which perpetuates racial inequality, joblessness and poverty, militates against our efforts to build a society founded on justice, equality and human dignity,” Zikalala said.

In the aftermath of the unrest, the provincial government started engaging communities, as part of the Social Cohesion Programme aimed at promoting unity, peace and harmony among all races in the province.

The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, Zikalala said, has been given space to continue its work without any interference to resolve all crimes related to the July unrest.

Government has also engaged the affected communities of Phoenix, Welbedacht and Chatsworth to address racial tensions, and peace committees have been established to address the racial issues.

“These will be supported by interventions that promote social cohesion, peace and unity. We have commenced with school sports, and the School Twinning Programme, and social cohesion through the Sport and Recreation Programme, especially between the affected communities,” Zikalala said.