The police, backed up by the army, largely maintained law and order, protecting people and property during the attempted national shutdown on March 20, which showed that the State is capable of exercising its power and businesses should recover some confidence that South Africa is a country where the rule of law is enforced, said business organisation Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) CEO Busi Mavuso in her latest weekly newsletter on March 27.
"Many businesses chose to close or keep staff at home, which showed widespread concern that the planned shutdown could lead to violence and disruption. These concerns were driven by the memories of looting and destruction of property in July 2021 that remain fresh.
"The irresponsible political rhetoric around the shutdown had inflamed fears; however, the State reacted appropriately and the response was proportionate to the fears ordinary citizens and businesses had," she said.
This should shift perceptions about the risks of such situations and should give comfort such that, if South Africa again faced a period of such inflamed political contestation, it need not disrupt businesses and ordinary people from going about their normal lives, she added.
"We live in a constitutional democracy where everyone has the freedom to protest and express themselves. Those rights must be exercised in an environment where constitutional imperatives are respected, and we can be confident that we can exercise our rights safely.
"A constitutional democracy protects us from abuses of power. After last week, we can have more confidence that is the country we live in. BLSA will continue to work hard with our State counterparts to build that confidence further," she said.
The rule of law is critical to business. It is essential for the safety and security of everyone, but also makes it possible for businesses to plan, invest and build, Mavuso emphasised.
"Dealing with crime and maintaining security is a key strategic objective for BLSA. Last week was a positive indicator of how government and the private sector can work together to improve the security situation. We still have much more to do.
"We are very conscious of the threat of organised crime and proliferation of extortion attempts against business. This too has been a focus of Business Against Crime South Africa (Bacsa) and there are early signs we are starting to make a difference there too; again, through close cooperation with State security structures," she added.
Further, the shutdown was a good exhibition of business and the security services working effectively together. The Eyes and Ears Initiative of Bacsa, which is a division of BLSA, worked closely with the South African Police Service National Operational Command Centre, which coordinated the flow of information around the shutdown.
All Eyes and Ears Initiative partners were constantly kept up to date, and Bacsa formed part of the national activation on Monday. Private security provided 19 helicopters for air support along with drones, armed reaction vehicles and security personnel.
"These were placed based on recommendations by the police to assist law enforcement and made it possible for the police to plan and improve reaction times," she noted.
Additionally, personnel from Bacsa were stationed in the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure, in the National Operational Command Centre and Provincial Operational Command Centres to ensure information from the private sector was channelled directly to senior intelligence and law enforcement structures.
"This was critical to the successful efforts to maintain law and order on the day. We have received positive feedback from the police for the support Eyes and Ears Initiative offered throughout the period," she said.