Stores close across SA as violent riots intensify

Business leaders call on authorities to quell the violence that has escalated since Zuma’s arrest last week.
Image: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

South Africa’s largest companies were among those forced to halt operations as some of the worst protests since the end of white minority rule erupted across parts of the country, with rioters torching trucks and looting stores.

The nation’s biggest four lenders led by Standard Bank Group Ltd. and FirstRand Ltd. all closed branches in KwaZulu-Natal, the province at the heart of the violent unrest, and the economic hub of Gauteng, the companies said in emailed responses to questions Monday. Walmart Inc.-owned Massmart Holdings Ltd. and mobile-phone giants Vodacom Group Ltd. and MTN Group Ltd. were among others to shutter outlets, while the latter is running its main call center at minimal capacity.

Dis-Chem Pharmacies Ltd. closed all its drugstores in KwaZulu-Natal, hampering South Africa’s Covid-19 testing and vaccine rollout, according to text messages sent to customers. Smaller shops across downtown Johannesburg closed as looters roamed the streets, while the affluent Rosebank Mall near the city’s financial hub of Sandton shut early as a precaution.

Business leaders are calling on authorities to quell the violence that has escalated since the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma last week, with the army being deployed to help police. The looting and destruction have emptied the shelves of grocers and closed major roads in the country, including the N3 highway between the port city of Durban and Johannesburg. At least six people have died to date, according to police.

“We are doing all we can to ensure that the disruptions are minimized,” Trudi Makhaya, an economic adviser to President Cyril Ramaphosa, said in webinar organized by the World Bank. “Of course, that begins with arresting criminals, intervening in those hotspots where we’re seeing challenges.”

Lockdown challenge
The impact of the riots has delivered a further blow to industries already contending with lockdown restrictions in South Africa to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections, which were toughened late last month to combat a third wave and extended on Sunday. It’s also hampering efforts to revive an economy that suffered its largest contraction in a century last year.

Alcohol industry bodies said liquor stores are being particularly targeted by rioters, given all sales have been banned for more than two weeks as one of the latest measures to contain the pandemic.

“Many of our members, who are already experiencing crippling damage to cash flow as a result of the ban, have lost their entire stores’ stock running into hundreds of millions of rands,” said Sean Robinson, Chairman of the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa. “It’s deeply troubling, and the extended ban only increases the risk of this criminal behaviour.”

South African stocks pared losses as investors kept a close eye on the protests, while the extension of the current hard level of lockdown weighed on sentiment. The FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index was up 1.4% by the close in Johannesburg, though the FTSE/JSE Retailers Index fell 1.1%.

“There is definitely a more somber mood on the JSE today,” said Michele Santangelo of Independent Securities in Johannesburg. “South Africa-centric shares are mostly under pressure today as is the rand. Investors are likely not overly concerned given the recent events but they are certainly not overly optimistic either,” he said.

© 2021 Bloomberg


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in and an Insider Gold subscriber to comment.


….and South Africa’s emigration rate will pick up again.

This is so fabulous for investor confidence 🙁

I hope Moody’s & Fitch are not reading any local news.


And house prices in certain areas are going to get a klap!!

The army wont do it. They need to ask the UN for peacekeepers (heheheee) Maybe something like UNTAG while a government of national unity is formed.

I also expect the SADC Troika (hehehe) to be in the country this week to assist SA in handling its affairs’ that it has proved incapable of conducting.

Cyril and please leave the uniform alone!!!

This is the result of years of infighting within the ruling party

All the mayhem, destruction and looting must be layed squarely at the feet of the ANC

We pay the tax and they steal from the top down

How can you blame the looters when Ministers do it on a grand scale and the Municipalities steal without batting an eyelid

What a crying shame that the ANC have reduced all citizens to bare witness to what a real failed state is all about

The wife’s really happy we’re out of Durban right now.

Potential investors will note that Durban aspires to be a “World Class African City”.
Perhaps better to go elsewhere for security and investment certainty.

….you have an oxymoron there: the words “world class” and “African” in one sentence.

A “world class” city (without the world African) examples are Tokyo, Paris, NYC, Sydney, Seoul, Dubai, Singapore, etc.

Add in the word “African” simply means the best Africa can throw at it…does not mean it’s ‘world class’ along with the upper league.

Durban is a typical African city like Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Tunis, Kigali, Windhoek, Algiers, Gaborone, Accra & Libreville.

However, there is ONLY ONE city that (in my supremist western mindset *lol*) that still quality as a “World Class City…in Africa”, and that is the metropolis located generally South of Grotto Bay, and 1 hour’s drive WEST of Worcester…

(Oh I forgot Jo’burg! But…NO, let’s leave it off….even Mexico City is safer these days.)

Bring in the Army and the State of Emergency.

Does the army also want their slice of the looting? With the useless police and useless SANDF involved there will be lots of uselessness doing the rounds. Then again their respective leaders didn’t really think that expert training was needed. How difficult can quelling a riot be?

Problem with the Army is, their vehicles are LARGER than the SAPS’….so there MORE cargo space for looted goods.

All of a sudden, the virus is the least of our concerns. How do you declare a state of emergency and implement a curfew while you already have those in place for other minor issues? They have played all their cards even before the game started.

a week or two from now they will be begging for food in the same streets???

This is what happens if you spend more than a century teaching people indiscipline.

Now what now??? Eish!!

The big supermarkets should refuse to reopen stores in the areas the rioters come from. As should all companies. You want to work? Want to buy food? Enjoy your 2 hour trip.

I laugh at all the negativity… This is exactly the country pre-1994… stick it out and be smart with your investments.. Many rational people will become millionaires after this

End of comments.



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Moneyweb newsletters

Instrument Details  

You do not have any portfolios, please create one here.
You do not have an alert portfolio, please create one here.

Follow us: