The South African Cane Growers’ Association has pleaded with government to declare a national state of emergency in the country as riots and looting wreak havoc on businesses and critical infrastructure.
The ongoing riots threaten to cause irreparable losses to the sugar industry as chaos strikes key cane growing areas at a critical point in the harvesting season with over R200 million worth of sugarcane already lost, the association said on Wednesday.
South Africa has already been under a national state of disaster for a year and a half in terms of the Disaster Management Act, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed over 65 000 lives and infected more than 2,2 million in South Africa.
However, a wave of protests, looting and riots sparked by last week’s arrest of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court after he failed to comply with a Constitutional Court ruling has triggered calls for government to step up intervention.
A national state of emergency, in terms of the State of Emergency Act of 1997, would give the president powers to introduce regulations “necessary or expedient to restore peace and order as well as make provision to deal with any circumstances which have arisen or are likely to arise as a result of the state of emergency”.
Losses that can’t be recovered
The South African Cane Growers’ Association’s statement said violence and destruction were escalating in cane-growing areas and a state of emergency was needed to restore order to hotspots.
“KwaZulu-Natal is not only ground zero for the unrest, but also the heart of South Africa’s sugar industry. Gauteng has also been hit hard, with the destruction now extending to Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape,” the statement said.
The statement added that “lawlessness” throughout the country had caused harm to the economy in the middle of the harvesting season, causing “irrecoverable losses to cane growers, workers, and the one million livelihoods that depend on the sugar industry”.
“The running total of the damage to South African cane growers to date stands at 353 000 tonnes of sugarcane that have been lost to arson. At R600 per tonne, this represents a loss in grower revenue of more than R211 million,” the statement said.
The statement said sugar mills in KwaZulu-Natal have been forced to stop operations and cannot receive cane or distribute sugar or molasses due to the disruptions and blockades at these mills. The association said it had to take precautions to stop operations to save lives.
Also in the agriculture sector, AgriSA said on Wednesday that one of its farmers had already reported the loss of R3 million of perishable produce that could not be transported due to the blockages caused by the unrest. According to reports, sugar producer Tongaat Hulett said it would have to close its sugar mills and refinery.
President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed the South African National Defence Force on Monday to support South African Police Service efforts to quell the unrest and restore order.
During a briefing held on Tuesday, the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster of government said it would consider declaring a national state of emergency if it deemed such action necessary. — news24.com