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Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

One of the key lessons from the July 2021 riots in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng was the need for even closer collaboration among relevant stakeholders, from law enforcement to organised business, to ensure law and order and minimise disruption to economic activity during disturbances.

Whenever there is unrest, businesses suffer through disrupted or reduced trading hours, staff can’t come to work and the shopping public is inconvenienced. Security and law and order are compromised and the risk of violence or damage to property increases. Ultimately, the economy suffers, something we should avoid at all costs given the low growth rates the country has been experiencing.

Using the lessons of the 2021 riots, business organisations such as the Consumer Goods Council of SA (CGCSA), private security companies and law enforcement co-ordinated to mitigate the potential effects and risks that could arise from the “national shutdown” called by the EFF.

In particular, through the sharing of information and ideas, and through the SA Police Service's E2 (eyes and ears) project, there was maximum collaboration, which made it relatively easier to ensure law and order was maintained. While there were incidences of the law being broken, swift action and the responsiveness of law enforcement ensured they did not spread.

In addition, neighbourhood watches and other community structures played a supportive role in ensuring the protests were peaceful and orderly. The success of these collaborative efforts demonstrates the importance of a multidisciplinary and stakeholder approach to addressing issues in the country. It is through such efforts that we can create an environment where people and businesses are able to conduct their business without disruption and can continue playing their role in driving economic growth, which we desperately need to create employment and a better life for all in our society.

Through the CGCSA’s Consumer Goods Crime Risk Initiative, we have, and continue to work with the police, SA Revenue Service (Sars) and private security sector to fight illicit trade, which is harming the economy and denying the fiscus much-needed revenue to fund government services that benefit the poor and vulnerable in particular.

Through this partnership the CGCSA launched its hotline, through which members of the public can anonymously report or provide information on illicit trade. This includes but is not limited to the manufacture and distribution of illicit alcohol, cigarettes, clothing and medicines. The information provided through the hotline is verified for authenticity before it is shared with the police for further investigation.

The police have mounted several  successful operations to seize illicit goods, particularly cigarettes and alcohol, worth millions of rand. These operations benefit in particular legitimate brand owners who are losing revenue they would otherwise have earned had people bought legitimate products. It also benefits Sars, which is losing billions every year from illicit trade as the money earned is neither declared nor taxed.

These operations also protect jobs in the manufacturing and formal sectors, which are under threat from the manufacture of illicit products. We will continue to explore, forge and sustain collaborative partnerships with various stakeholders to ensure that our members, retailers in particular, operate in an environment that encourages enterprise while providing a safe environment for the shopping public.

Through the Consumer Goods Crime Risk Initiative, we are providing training to all law enforcement agencies, including the SA National Defence Force, not only the police. The training speaks to product identification and relevant legislation.

We are also routinely engaging with provincial and national police structures to share information and ideas on how to mitigate the risks of crime and its effects on the ability of the consumer goods sector, and our members in particular, to trade better.

• Nelson is an executive with the Consumer Goods Crime Risk Initiative.

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