Financial Mail - - BETWEEN THE CHAINS - @Sikonathim [email protected] by Sikonathi Mantshantsha

What on earth is go­ing on in SA? Ev­ery day the news is lit­tered with re­ports of crim­i­nal vi­o­lence against lawabid­ing cit­i­zens — from petty thieves prey­ing on peo­ple in the streets to heav­ily armed or­gan­ised gangs killing se­cu­rity guards in cash heists. And the po­lice never seem to re­spond in any sig­nif­i­cant way.

This law­less­ness has now spread to the crim­i­nals wear­ing po­lit­i­cal party in­signia.

This week, peo­ple wear­ing T-shirts bear­ing the colours of the EFF broke into and ran­sacked stores owned by Vo­da­com in at least three shop­ping malls. De­spite all this be­ing filmed, the po­lice are yet to make a sin­gle ar­rest. Thugs call­ing them­selves Black First Land First man­han­dle jour­nal­ists and busi­ness­peo­ple with im­punity.

For the past few weeks, I have been a silent wit­ness to sim­i­lar acts of crim­i­nal­ity by peo­ple wear­ing the in­signia of the EFF who ter­rorise small busi­nesses and fac­to­ries in the in­dus­trial heart­land of Jo­han­nes­burg. I have re­ceived re­ports and ev­i­dence of sim­i­lar acts of crim­i­nal­ity in the fac­to­ries of Cape Town and Dur­ban. In their hour of need, tax­pay­ing en­trepreneurs can’t count on the po­lice for as­sis­tance.

The thugs start by in­fil­trat­ing the work­force, promis­ing to get work­ers a bet­ter deal than their trade unions do. They pur­port to play the role of health and safety in­spec­tors, rail­road­ing en­trepreneurs for mi­nor in­fringe­ments on the shopfloor while com­plain­ing of poor work­ing con­di­tions. Hav­ing turned em­ploy­ees against em­ploy­ers, they then de­mand pay­ments from the en­tre­pre­neur. Any busi­ness owner who fails to pay the bribe has their plant ran­sacked or set on fire.

Multi Plas­tics Re­cy­cling in Springs and Her­ber Plas­tic in Boks­burg suf­fered this fate last week. Dis-chem and H&M have also been hit in the past few months. Again tax­pay­ers en­joy no pro­tec­tion from the state.

In the case of the ter­ror be­ing spread across fac­to­ries in the Jo­han­nes­burg area, des­per­ate en­trepreneurs have now turned to the me­dia for help. The Gaut­eng gov­ern­ment, through the safety & se­cu­rity MEC, is fully aware of the in­tim­i­da­tion, as are se­cu­rity agen­cies and the po­lice. Some firms have ob­tained court in­ter­dicts against the EFF, yet the vi­o­lence con­tin­ues.

The gov­ern­ment has failed in its most ba­sic duty.

Crim­i­nal pro­tec­tion racket

Some fac­to­ries have been closed for weeks be­cause the own­ers have not been able to op­er­ate in the face of the in­tim­i­da­tion. Oth­ers have suc­cumbed, and con­tinue to pay what can only be termed “pro­tec­tion fees”.

It’s de­press­ing to compare this law­less­ness with my ex­pe­ri­ences in Morocco and Is­rael re­cently. In Casablanca I watched as 6,000 peo­ple marched peace­fully in protest through the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict, while 100 un­armed po­lice of­fi­cers and two dozen sol­diers kept watch. Not a sin­gle win­dow was bro­ken. No rub­bish bin was over­turned.

Close to mid­night in a street pub in Jerusalem, I saw two young men try­ing to solve a dis­pute with their fists. But they didn’t have much time — within five min­utes they were bun­dled into po­lice ve­hi­cles and driven away.

Back home, we should be ask­ing our­selves what kind of society we want SA to be. Are we happy to al­low thugs to abuse our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy and par­lia­ment as they usurp power from the peo­ple?

Are we to be a society ruled by thugs who shake down en­trepreneurs and cit­i­zens in broad day­light? How can we cre­ate jobs and per­suade peo­ple to be ac­tive cit­i­zens who fi­nan­cially sup­port their fam­i­lies? Have we given up on the rule of law? Who in their right mind would in­vest in such an en­vi­ron­ment?

I have been a silent wit­ness to acts of crim­i­nal­ity by peo­ple wear­ing the in­signia of the EFF

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