Last week we watched as thousands of looters swept through shopping centres; casually looting or destroying anything and everything in their path. This is, however, not a problem exclusive to South Africa. In 2010 we saw the “Arab Spring” rip through Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria. In 2019 we saw the protests in Peru and Bolivia. Hong Kong is still battling civil unrest and so is Cuba; and Black Lives Matter continued their violent protests in the US throughout summer 2020.
What is currently happening in SA has been a long time coming. Over the last decade we have seen how the leaders of our country set an example of looting the state coffers with impunity. We have seen the unemployment figures rise to 33%, which means 7,2 million people without a job. We have seen the country slide into bankruptcy with a budget deficit of 14% of GDP and a gross debt to GDP ratio of 80%.
And then Covid-19 was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. Government had to choose between shutting down the economy to save lives; or keeping the economy up and running to save livelihoods. They chose the former.
So this is where we are now. It is of no use to mope about it; all we can do, is look forward and do what we can to improve what we can. Government is not in a position to help you, and currently the grass is not necessarily greener most places overseas. So, we have to find our solutions right here in South Africa.
Although it seems the looting and destruction was deliberately instigated by a criminal undercurrent to further destabilize the already volatile political situation, the majority of the looters are unemployed people who would not normally revert to crime, but was driven to do so through desperation once the opportunity presented itself. It is almost logical that crime will ensue if almost half of people between 15 and 34 years of age have no income.
If you are reading this blog, you are probably in the very fortunate position of having an income, or savings, or both. Is it so hard to imagine what life would be without any of that?
The good news is that your international investments will continue to provide you with a buffer in times like these. Some local companies will be harder hit than others, but with good management they will recover. The more serious problem we face is the unavoidable fact that international investors will have seen the desperate inability of our current government to handle a situation like this. The police was late to act and completely outnumbered by the mob. All South Africans have to accept that things will not improve soon.
We live in a wild, beautiful country with tenacious, colourful and creative people. The best thing we can do now is support our communities and buy local. And, most of all, be generous.