SMMES feel the pinch after looting in SA
July 31st, 2021

The looting and destruction of businesses in South Africa have stirred up a hornet’s nest amongst SMMEs, with many of them being left utterly ruined. Protesters have so far looted over 200 malls in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. They have broken into supermarkets, clothing, electronic and hardware stores, and even some harbours, A consistent stream of videos on social media has shown that warehouses, breweries, and furniture stores have also not been spared, with some being completely gutted by fire.

Covid-19 Business Rescue Assistance (Cobra) CEO Bob Grewar said that the extent of the damage to SMMEs would especially be felt in the retail sector. “It’s an incredibly challenging time for small businesses. We’ve been put on level four (lockdown) which has been extended,” he said. “With these protests going on, people are definitely staying at home and the loss of customers, the actual damage of the shop fittings and items being stolen and looted spells a really bad time for small businesses in retail spaces.”

He said retail centres were being targeted, and criminals were using the protests to spread chaos. Grewar said that because demonstrators had shut off major roads in the country, this had had a negative impact on logistics. “With people already not travelling, this has had an impact on the petroleum sector, and logistics start to get interrupted. That has a big impact on trucks carrying goods back and forth,” he said.

Insurance and Risk Management head Albert Mushai said that even though businesses were able to claim for the lootings, small businesses without insurance would feel the pinch.”All claims that are related to riots, mass looting or from people, whether it’s arising from social discontentment or a political issue, go to the state-owned entity the South African Special Risks Insurance Association,” he explained. “The problem with the SASRIA cover is that it is always attached to other underlining policies you must have against other conventional risks. The pressing issue is whether one has coverage or not. It’s going to hurt SMMEs much more than bigger companies.”

Mushai said that small businesses had a limited capacity to manage risks, unlike their larger counterparts. “Small businesses have limited financial resources to withstand such a hit on their businesses, whereas large companies are better able to withstand it,” he said. He warned that the protests were “exacerbating poverty by self-generating it amongst our small businesses which happen to be predominantly black-owned”. “If we want these businesses to withstand the pandemic, the kind of damage we are seeing now is the least that we can afford to have,” Mushai said.

The SMME sector has seen thousands of businesses having to shut their doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns. They have warned that the ongoing protests could decimate the sector. “All claims that are related to riots, mass looting or from people, whether it’s arising from social discontentment or a political issue, go to the state-owned entity the South African Special Risks Insurance Association,” he explained.

“The problem with the SASRIA cover is that it is always attached to other underlining policies you must have against other conventional risks. The pressing issue is whether one has coverage or not. It’s going to hurt SMMEs much more than bigger companies.”

Mushai said that small businesses had a limited capacity to manage risks, unlike their larger counterparts. “Small businesses have limited financial resources to withstand such a hit on their businesses, whereas large companies are better able to withstand it,” he said. He warned that the protests were “exacerbating poverty by self-generating it amongst our small businesses which happen to be predominantly black-owned”.

“If we want these businesses to withstand the pandemic, the kind of damage we are seeing now is the least that we can afford to have,” Mushai said. The SMME sector has seen thousands of businesses having to shut their doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns. They have warned that the ongoing protests could decimate the sector.

-EWN

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