Millions in production losses as taxi fare protest worsens

Jeff Wicks, News24

Durban - Factories and businesses in the Ezakheni Industrial Estate near Ladysmith are counting the cost of ongoing civil unrest relating to a minibus taxi fare increase – with threats of violence pushing production losses into the millions.

The township of Ezakheni and an adjacent industrial zone remain gripped by a protest on Tuesday morning, sparked by a R1 increase in taxi fares.

Roads leading to and from the area have been blockaded by angry commuters, who have obstructed the road with burning barricades.

Police continue to monitor the tense situation, which boiled over on Monday when Public Order Policing Unit officers used rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

Defy South Africa was on Monday forced to shut down their regional production facility.

Marketing Director Rajan Gungiah said concern for the wellbeing of staff had prompted the closure of the facility.

“We are quite concerned at the unrest and we have a full production facility there. We also have warehouses in the area and as soon as we heard that the situation had reached a volatile point, we closed the entire operation and that will continue until it stabilises,” he said.

“Depending on the duration of the unrest, we may or may not have stock or production losses as a result of this. We will keep our staff off-site. It is volatile and we are more concerned about the well-being of our people,” Gungiah added.

“If we look at daily production losses of hundreds of thousands of rands, we will be running into millions in losses if this thing goes on for longer than one or two days.”

'Every business affected'

IPSS Security's Ezakheni Branch Manager Marinus Nabal said businesses had been forced to close.

“It has affected every business in the industrial estate because no one can get anywhere near it.

“We have had guards that can’t come to work because the protestors will not allow them to leave the township... clients have not been able to get anywhere near their factories,” Nabal said.

“I tried to get in this morning to post some guards and I was stopped at a barricade. When I tried to reason with them, they started picking up stones and told me I needed to go back where I came from.

“Yesterday there was a threat that they would start attacking businesses.”

The estate is administered by the Ithala Development Corporation, which could not be contacted at the time of publishing.