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The impact of the riots and looting on the South African economy and small business owners

Jadine Mundhree
Andrisha Beharry-Ramraj


Following the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma, his supporters were angered, which resulted in riots and looting in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng provinces. With South Africa already reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the unexpected unrest caused further devastation to the country. This paper aimed to encourage and assist fellow South Africans in understanding the devastation and lasting effects caused by the unrest. Therefore, the engagement in civil unrest in such magnitudes can be avoided for the country’s wellbeing. In light of this paper’s purpose, this study collected data through the means of desktop research. This meant extracting information from journals, news reports, internet sources and scholarly publications. Based on the literature collected and analysed, it was deduced the riots and looting in July 2021 have negatively affected the South African economy and businesses, in particular small businesses. Some of the main factors depicting this impact include the following insights. An estimated 150 000 jobs were at risk within the KZN region alone. In terms of small businesses, they accounted for 89% of businesses impacted in the two provinces in which the unrest took place. More so, all together, small firms on a monthly basis stood to lose an amount of R3.4 billion in the attempt to resume business operations. This led to many small businesses facing closure. Regarding the economy, the unrest caused the rand to depreciate by 2.4%, which has adverse short and long term effects on the South African economy. These findings are critical as they provide insight into South Africa’s current circumstances and what could be expected in the years to come. The main recommendation made in this paper advocated that small businesses adopt a mindset of anticipation and containment. A mindset of anticipation requires constant identification of all potential emergencies and problems, while a mindset of containment entails the embracement of adaptability and flexibility when responding to a crisis. Therefore, the adoption of an anticipation and containment mindset aids in the development of capabilities to deal with loss and commitment to resilience.

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eISSN: 1596-9231