Looting sprees to continue
94 arrested for protest thefts at supermarkets
July 23, 2009 Edition 3
PROTESTERS behind the looting of two Durban supermarkets have pledged to continue targeting food retailers to highlight their hunger and desperation.
One of the supermarkets has announced, in the wake of surprise invasions yesterday which saw 94 people arrested, that it would pursue prosecutions in each and every case.
KwaZulu-Natal has been hardest hit by the recession in terms of job losses, and the SA Unemployed Peoples’ Movement (SAUPM) said today the food snatches would continue until the plight of the jobless was recognised.
Police said they arrested 44 people at Checkers in Dr Pixley KaSeme (West) Street yesterday, and 50 were arrested at Pick n Pay at The Workshop. “They were arrested for illegal gathering and theft and they will appear in court soon,” said provincial spokesman Captain Khephu Ndlovu.
Nozipho Mteshana, the chairwoman of SAUPM, said yesterday’s protest was the first where unemployed people targeted supermarkets in Durban.
For more than an hour yesterday Shoprite Checkers remained closed after a large group walked into the store and started eating food off the shelves without paying. A strong contingent of police arrived and customers and onlookers were told to leave the premises.
The protesters were made to lie down inside the store while more police vans were called.
An elderly woman who had gone to collect her pension money from the store said that one moment she was standing in the queue, and the next thing she was told to go outside along with many other customers.
“When I saw the police, I panicked, but I was told to go outside quickly. I have never been so scared in my life, the guns gave me such a fright. So I won’t go back there until tomorrow when everything has calmed down,” she said.
Ndlovu said the protesters at both stores had helped themselves to perishable goods, such as roast chicken and chips. Most of them were women.
Mteshana insisted the protesters had done nothing wrong except eat and this was because they were hungry: “This is the frustration that people are experiencing and the financial situation and the continuing job losses do not make things any better for our people.
“Look at the Early Morning Market traders, what will happen them?” she asked.
Sarita van Wyk of Shoprite Checkers said more than 40 charges of theft had been laid by the Shoprite Group with the SAPS.
Brian Weyers, corporate marketing director of the Shoprite Group, said shoplifting remained a problem in the retail industry. It cost businesses millions of rands annually and, for this reason, the Shoprite group would seek prosecution in each and every case.
“As the matter is under police investigation, the supermarket group is not in a position to comment on the matter,” he said.
In its analysis of the quarterly labour force figures, Stats SA said more than 117 000 jobs were lost in KwaZulu-Natal in the first quarter of 2009 because of the recession.
The numbers showed that this province has lost the most jobs in the country when compared with the first quarter of 2008.
The first-quarter figures showed that South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 1.6 percent from 21.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 23.5 percent, and a total of 208 000 jobs were lost in South Africa between the two quarters.
Job losses recorded within the trade sector accounted for 143 000, followed by construction (65 000) and manufacturing (62 000).
In KwaZulu-Natal, the trade sector registered the highest number of job cuts (79 000), followed by agriculture (29 000).