Business leaders, together with the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci), met police minister Bheki Cele on Monday, to air their grievances about the knock-on effects of the recent xenophobic violence in Gauteng. 

The meeting was attended by companies such as MTN and MultiChoice, whose operations outside SA were hit by retaliatory attacks due to an outbreak of violence.

Last week, people in Nigeria had reportedly turned on SA-owned businesses such as Shoprite in retaliation to the violence against foreign nationals in parts of Pretoria and Johannesburg.

MTN’s stores and service centres in Nigeria were closed on Wednesday as a precaution. Pay TV operator MultiChoice had to close some of its offices in Nigeria and Zambia.  

“We urge all our people from across the continent, irrespective of their nationality, to shun violence,” MultiChoice said, which hosted the engagement at its campus in Randburg.

“All of our offices in Nigeria and Zambia which had been closed in the interest of safeguarding our customers and staff have been reopened and its business as usual. The situation is being closely managed by our teams across our operations.”

The violence against foreigners, mainly African immigrants, overshadowed the last week's World Economic Forum conference in Cape Town aimed at boosting inter-Africa trade and caused diplomatic strain with other African countries including Nigeria.

It also threatened to undermine President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to position SA as a friendly investment destination as he tries to break SA out of a low-growth trap with foreign capital and structural policy reforms.

MTN said welcomes the opportunity to have taken part in the meeting, organised by Sacci, to share its ideas and concerns.

“While the meeting is an important step in addressing some of the issues that we have faced in the past days, we also need to demonstrate leadership and action in this regard and we have asked minister Bheki Cele to increase the communication of the situation, action plans and progress to give South Africans hope and peace of mind,” said the mobile operator. 

“We must all work together to get on top of these issues and MTN is ready to play its part.”

Vodacom managing executive for public enterprise Rudi Matjokana said the minister was able to give the companies at the meeting a “true sense of the scale of the problem”.

“Although the minister did not share the details of his plan, for obvious security reasons, he took business into confidence on some of the complexities that the cluster is faced with on a daily basis and communicated his resolve to deal with them expeditiously.

The minister assured business that he has a solid response plan that will effectively address the current security challenges.