Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman says that the government should consider changes for the N3 highway connecting Durban and Joburg following July’s widespread looting and damage.
Speaking at Pick n Pay’s mid-year results presentation on Wednesday (20 October), Ackerman said that the past six months have underlined how much business and government depend on each other.
He added that the government, like business, must also learn lessons from the July crisis.
“For example, we saw in July how the N3 highway is one of the country’s most vital arteries. Let us ensure that the Mooi River toll plaza is not rebuilt in the same place so that it cannot be used again to block this artery and cripple the country.”
The N3 is a crucial trade route between Durban and Johannesburg, with the riots cutting off the flow of food and other essential goods from the country’s biggest port to its most populous city.
In July, the highway was closed for almost a week after looters targeted trucks on the road, with over 20 trucks petrol-bombed and several drivers killed across KwaZulu-Natal.
“Government and business depend on each other. We must work together with honesty, transparency and in good faith. We have shown that we can do it – for example, our combined effort to increase local production of food, textiles, and clothing,” Ackerman said.
“Our work on local procurement of clothing has created jobs and livelihoods. This co-operation has made our supply chains more durable at a time of global disruption.”
Follow the evidence
Ackerman also warned that government should avoid cases where ideology, poor liaison, lack of transparency or intransigence damage the economy and erode trust.
“The government’s reliance on restricting alcohol sales as part of its Covid-19 response has been immensely damaging. There is a wealth of evidence to show that it has little or no positive impact as a public health measure.
“But it has an immensely negative impact on jobs, on the economy, on confidence in our Covid response, and of course on the performance of businesses like ours. Our concern is that the state of disaster is being used by elements of government to address liquor policy issues without resorting to the constitutional processes.”
Ackerman said the Pick n Pay would continue to support the government in its fight against Covid-19 in ensuring that as many people as possible are vaccinated.
“But we implore the government to heed the evidence and resist the temptation to reach again for restrictions on alcohol sales.
“It is of concern that liquor restrictions are being put in place for the local elections. We need to focus on getting the country vaccinated rather than putting further restrictions on citizens’ rights.”
“Let me also make a plea for greater transparency from government. Policies and proposals issued by ministers should reflect what the government has said it intends to do, without last-minute changes or surprises. I hope the Companies Amendment Bill will be a good example of consistency and transparency.”