South Africa unrest update – hundreds of supermarkets looted

As at close of business Friday, here is an update on the unrest in South Africa, which is primarily taking place in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The unrest, which has seen more than 800 stores damaged or looted, has seen severe food and fuel shortages in some parts of the country.

Key supply routes from the KwaZulu-Natal coast – the N2 and N3 have been blockaded by rioters, preventing trucks carrying petrol, diesel and fresh produce from passing through. This is leading to both fuel and food shortages. The N2 connects Durban with East London, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) and Cape Town. The N3 connects Durban with Johannesburg and Pretoria.

It is also leading to shortages in Mozambique, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi and may extend into Zimbabwe, Botswana and possibly also Zambia. The Zimbabwean government has already warned of shortages and possible price hikes.

On Wednesday, the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa said that retailers have lost an estimated R5bn ($340m) to date. The true number could be at least double that in KwaZulu-Natal alone. The Road Freight Association has warned that the damage to trucks as well as lost income could run into R1bn+. South Africa’s largest crude oil refinery, Sapref, has said it was temporarily shutting down.

Tiger Brands has suspended advertising. It has also had R150 million ($10.4m) of stock looted after attacks at a number of its sites in KwaZulu-Natal. The Beer Association of South Africa has called for a state of emergency. Two SABMiller (ABInBev) depots in KwaZulu-Natal were looted and set alight and Heineken warehouse in the province was also ransacked.

Supermarket chains and alcohol retailers

So far, among the supermarket retailers, the following number of stores have been damaged:

  • Spar: 184 stores (this includes 62 TOPS, 31 Build It)
  • Massmart: 41 stores (this includes 10 Game, 8 Builders, 2 Makro)
  • Shoprite: has not released details but we estimate that more than 150 stores have been affected
  • Pick n Pay: has not released details but up to 100 Pick n Pay and Boxer stores may have been affected. All Boxer stores in KwaZulu-Natal are closed
  • Woolworths: closed all its stores in KwaZulu-Natal – the number of damaged stores has not been released

Supermarket chains have enacted emergency response plans – shipping goods from secured warehouses in Gauteng to stores that have sustained light damage or which have escaped looting. Officially, they are talking about this period as a clean up period, although it is not clear that the violence is completely over.

Armed police have now been deployed to protect food deliveries. The extent of damage and looting to distribution centres has not been released yet but several are known to have been targeted by armed gangs.

Other retailers

The damage to non-food retailers that we know about so far:

  • Pepkor: 489 stores (9% of the group’s stores)
  • TFG (Foschini): 190 stores
  • Cashbuild: 36 stores

Finally, Eswatini, which has also seen protests against the king, who is accused of spending state funds on himself and his wives while people starve, has introduced an overnight curfew. Police fired teargas and water cannon at anti-monarchy protesters during the latest round of demonstrations, which have also seen shops close and some looting. King Mswati III appointed Cleops Dlamini as his new prime minister today (Friday 16th July).