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Southern African supply chains in jeopardy due to South African unrest

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MOOI RIVER, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 10:  Trucks waiting to go a few km away from the Moon River Tollgate July 10, 2021 in Mooi River, South Africa. It is reported that protests continue to rock the province of KwaZulu-Natal as Zuma protestors continued to block national roads, highways and burn trucks. The protests are reportedly and believed to be about the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)
MOOI RIVER, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 10:  Trucks waiting to go a few km away from the Moon River Tollgate July 10, 2021 in Mooi River, South Africa. It is reported that protests continue to rock the province of KwaZulu-Natal as Zuma protestors continued to block national roads, highways and burn trucks. The protests are reportedly and believed to be about the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)

Logistics players ask for swift government action to keep supplies flowing into neighbouring states.


While the government said it will deploy 25 000 additional troops to unrest-ridden parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the army has called up its reserve forces. This deployment is taking place amid calls from different sectors in the economy to quell looting and halt the destruction of businesses in two of South Africa’s most important economic centres.

eThekwini metropolitan municipality (which includes Durban and surrounds) mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said on 14 July that about 40 000 businesses were looted in South Africa’s second-largest city. Kaunda also said that around 55 000 informal traders were affected and that 129 000 formal jobs were at stake.

Meanwhile, the organisation representing customs clearance agencies, the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF), called on the government to step up its response to the unrest.

“We respect South Africa’s law and the constitution, but it is time to take action,” Dr Juanita Maree, chairperson of SAAFF, said in a statement. “It is time for us to work together, make plans, implement those plans and ensure that our supply chains continue to operate. SAAFF’s membership comprises freight forwarders, who are the architects of the supply chain. For the economy to function and for people to be able to survive and prosper, supply chains need to function unimpeded.”

The closure of the Port of Durban and parts of the N2, N3 and N4 highways over recent days due to the senseless looting and destruction of trucks, their cargo, shopping malls, distribution centres and beyond has severely impacted our supply chains, she said.

“This has massive short-term consequences and even more devastating long-term ones for everyone in this country.”
Dr Juanita Maree, chairperson of SAAFF

The spill over to SA’s neighbours could impact food and fuel availability in Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

“What has happened in South Africa in this last week has also impacted hugely on other landlocked countries in the SADC region, who rely heavily on South Africa for imports of fuel, groceries, pharmaceuticals, mining equipment/spares, vehicle spares, tyres and much more,” said Mike Fitzmaurice, CEO of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Association.

“Those countries that have used South Africa as a transit route for exports through the Port of Durban will now turn to alternate routes for exports such as Walvis Bay, Beira, and Dar es Salaam.”

Naledi Pandor, minister of  international relations and cooperation, visited Namibia for bilateral talks with her counterpart, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, on 14 July. In a communique following the talks, “Namibia expressed concern at the incidences of looting and criminality prevailing in some provinces of South Africa”.

Pandor “assured Namibia that transport corridors would continue operating uninterrupted to deliver goods and services to Namibia, particularly essential ones to fight Covid-19”, according to the communique.

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This article was written exclusively for finweek's 16 July newsletter. You can subscribe to the weekly newsletter here.


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