Pietermaritzburg and Midlands Chamber of Business CEO Melanie Veness says many small businesses in Pietermaritzburg could not afford to reopen following the unrest in July last year. A number of other businesses have rationalised.
Shortly after the unrest, mayor Mzimkhulu Thobella said the KwaZulu-Natal legislative capital suffered losses of about R2.5 billion. A number of malls were looted.
Despite these setbacks, Veness believes it’s the resilience of the City’s people which will help rebuild their economy.
“We need to ensure that we get our infrastructure right so that the operating environment can be conducive. And that really is what business asks for. We’re not looking for anything exceptional.
“We’re just looking for a safe environment with decent, quality services – water, electricity, decent roads to drive on – and business will do what it needs to do. And this community is phenomenal. That’s the one thing that I must stay. Every time someone comes to Pietermaritzburg they say people here have so much heart. And I think it’s that resilience and that heart which will see us rebuild this economy,” Veness explains.
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Meanwhile, Yunus Asmall – the owner of a 140-year-old family business says they are slowly trying to rebuild the business. He says despite the goodwill of suppliers, the company had to let 50 workers go.
Asmall recalls the events of July last year. “There were big volumes of looters. And they emptied the warehouse. They emptied our shop. They tried to put the warehouse on fire but the sprinkler saved us. The security company managed to put the sprinklers on. Our store in Edendale area, in the township, was burnt completely to the ground. So there’s nothing left there. The stocks were all taken. Our trucks were used to transport the stolen goods and they were set on fire. So we lost all that.”
Businessman Asmall recalls the events of July last year:
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