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South Africa Faces a Long Haul to Rebuild the Economy and Battered Investor Confidence

An uneasy calm prevailed across most of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces as key roads reopened and clean-up operations began in earnest on Friday following some of the most violent protests the country has ever seen. Scores of people died during a week of mayhem, hundreds of shops were looted, and key infrastructure was destroyed. The unrest was triggered by ex-President Jacob Zuma’s incarceration on contempt-of-court charges and exploded as poor communities took to the streets in their thousands to vent their anger over appalling living conditions and a lack of jobs. While the rand gained 1.1% against the dollar on Friday, it’s still down 1.5% this week. Gross domestic product will likely shrink in the third quarter, while delays in the country’s coronavirus vaccination program could result in new infections, Annabel Bishop, chief economist at Investec Bank Ltd. said in an emailed note. Deutsche Bank AG sees the unrest shaving 0.8 of a percentage point off the country’s economic growth rate this year. Food, medicines and fuel are in short supply in several towns in KwaZulu-Natal following the shuttering of hundreds of retail outlets and disruption of traffic on key transport routes. The main highway that links Gauteng and the eastern port city of Durban, and other routes were reopened on Friday. The government has received reports of extensive damage being done to 161 malls, 11 warehouses, eight factories and 161 liquor outlets and distributors. President Cyril Ramaphosa described the violence as a deliberate and well-orchestrated assault on South Africa’s democracy, and conceded that his administration was ill prepared to counter the planned and coordinated attacks. Ramaphosa said it was imperative to provide support to households and business to enable them to rebuild and restock. The Presidency and Treasury were working on a comprehensive package that will be presented to the cabinet for consideration, with details to be announced soon, he said.