Banks will cough up nearly R400k for each ATM destroyed during unrest

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ATM machines were pulled out of the wall by looters at Diepkloof Square in Soweto.
ATM machines were pulled out of the wall by looters at Diepkloof Square in Soweto.
Tebogo Letsie/City Press
  • Replacing ATMs damaged during the recent unrest will cost banks R385 000 each - on average.
  • But some may cost more, and the cost of rebuilding branches will be significantly higher.
  • However, the Banking Association of SA says its members are committed to rebuilding and providing relief to affected customers.

Replacing banking infrastructure destroyed during the unrest is going to cost a significant amount of both time and money, an industry body has said.

But as banks count the cost of branches and ATMs that were either damaged or completely destroyed, they are also considering measures to offer affected businesses in other sectors a helping hand. 

During the unrest that affected parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, more than 1 400 ATMs and 269 bank branches were vandalised or destroyed.

The Banking Association of SA (BASA) says its members are committed to maintaining their presence in the affected areas. They are still assessing the cost of damage to their infrastructure, but it costs around R385 000 to replace an ATM before installation costs.

Rebuilding or refurbishment damaged bank branches is expected to cost significantly more.

BASA said not every vandalised ATM will need to be replaced. BASA MD Bongiwe Kunene said there are three destroyed ATMs that are currently being replaced. Some suffered minor damages, and banks can quickly fix them. Others need to be refurbished entirely because looters interfered with the whole system and not just the surface.

"Others may end up being out of commission altogether and replaced because the extent of the damage was severe," she said.

Kunene said despite these setbacks, the attitude among banks is that it's in everyone's best interest to rebuild.

"Right now, there isn't any BASA member that we want to leave or close our operations. Not a single one. But what is apparent is that the pace of fixing and refurbishing is going to be very, very uneven," said Kunene.

A leg up  

As for helping businesses that were severely affected by looting and arson, banks are considering providing bridging finance to those who are awaiting the payment of their Sasria claims, as one of the relief mechanisms.

Some, like FNB, are offering repayment breaks for qualifying clients who were in good standing before the unrest. FNB and some of its peers have also committed to replace damaged or stolen point-of-sale devices at no charge. FNB is also waiving Saswitch fees that it charges its business and commercial clients when they use other banks' ATMs in August and September.

As for small business that were not insured or didn't have Sasria cover in place, BASA said they will need government support. But where banks are trying to lend a hand is waiving monthly rental fees for point-of-sale devices and replacing damaged ones as quickly as they can.

Kunene said if those businesses find themselves in a position where they can't repay their loans, they should approach their banks to discuss possible repayment relief options.

"We are not going to stand and say we expect them to repay. Inasmuch as banking infrastructure has been destroyed, sometimes even the structures they operate in have been destroyed," said Kunene.

For individual customers, all banks have suspended fees that they charge when social grant recipients use other banks' ATMs.

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