The violent service delivery protests and strikes, which have swept across the country in recent times, may bring the uncomfortable prospect of damage to property.
This unexpected and adverse cost could set back individuals and businesses, but it’s a cost that short-term insurer Sasria SOC Ltd is willing to take on.
At a time when consumers face a sustained rise in living costs and businesses grapple with sky-high insurance premiums – the big question is whether insurance covering special risks including protests, civil unrest and acts of terrorism should be prioritised.
Sasria’s MD Cedric Masondo is in the yes camp, adding that insurance for special risks is not a luxury but a necessity because unforeseen circumstances are now part of daily life.
The numbers lend credence to Masondo’s views. In 2016, Sasria recorded an unprecedented increase in individual insurance claims, which Masondo said were valued at nearly R900 million. In a normal year, the number of claims Sasria receives does not exceed the 3 000 mark.
Masondo said a major contributor to claims in 2016 was the widespread student-led protests against tuition fee increases known as #FeesMustFall, which began in earnest in October 2015.
“Two years ago, we were receiving 30% of our claims from service delivery protests and 70% from labour strikes. The trend has reversed as we now get 95% of claims from service delivery protests and student unrest and 5% from labour strikes,” he said.
“If strikes increase it means that we would hit more than 1 billion claims. Everything that is happening in the country, whether it is social, political or economic, it has a direct impact on our claims.”
Sasria, which is SA’s only short-term insurer covering special risks, doesn’t directly issue insurance policies but builds its cover on policies offered by other insurance companies. Essentially, it’s an optional add-on insurance cover.
About 80% of its clients are businesses and 20% individuals.
Masondo said insurance companies may not pay for fire damage to a property, equipment or vehicles caused by protests, riots or terrorist attacks, but Sasria takes on the risk. This, he said, makes Sasria relevant.
He added that Sasria’s premiums are affordable. Underscoring this is that individuals or businesses are typically charged a monthly fee of R4.50 or an annual premium of R45 for vehicle cover – irrespective of its value.
Sasria’s standard insurance covers damages up to a value of R500 million per annum while premium cover provides for damages up to R1 billion. It hasn’t increased its premium rates since 2009, as its mandate is to offer affordable short-term insurance. “The goal is to make more people buy Sasria cover rather than to make people pay more money.”
Arguably, the biggest problem facing SA’s short-term insurance industry is the need for cover in the eyes of cash-strapped consumers. Masondo said insurance penetration level in SA is 5% for individuals versus 80% in Europe. “A lot of people are not buying insurance, which means more than 40% of cars on the road don’t have insurance and Sasria cover.”
The low take-up of insurance cover also applies to commercial businesses, in particular, small businesses.
Sasria was formed in 1979 to deal with the political risk of apartheid-SA. At the time, insurance companies didn’t want to take on the risk as violent protests were becoming unpredictable.
This article is brought to you by Sasria.