Insurance claims from S.African unrest seen at up to $680 million – govt insurer

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the burning warehouse in Durban
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the burning warehouse after violence erupted following the jailing of former South African President Jacob Zuma, in Durban, South Africa, July 14, 2021. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

July 14, 2021

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Claims for damage and theft from businesses affected by civil unrest in South Africa are likely to be between 7 billion rand and 10 billion rand ($481 million to $683 million), the head of the only insurer covering political violence in the country told Reuters.

Days of riots and looting have left more than 70 people dead, hurt thousands of businesses and damaged major infrastructure in some of the worst civil unrest in decades.

Triggered by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma last week after he failed to appear at a corruption inquiry, its has widened into an outpouring of anger over poverty and inequality.

Sasria, a state-owned insurer set up after private firms stopped underwriting risks relating to political violence due to unrest during apartheid, has received around 100 million rand in claims so far, its managing director Cedric Masondo told Reuters, adding this was expected to rise significantly.

The company, the only insurer to offer cover for such risks, expects total claims of up to 10 billion rand, or 12 billion rand in a worst-case scenario – making the unrest likely the most significant event in terms of the value of claims since Sasria was set up in 1974, Masondo continued.

“This is the worst in terms of financial magnitude,” he said.

Masondo said while Sasria has re-insurance cover that runs into the high single digits and can fund up to 10 billion rand of claims from its own balance sheet, it only covers customers up to a threshold of 500 million rand.

This will mean smaller firms will likely see their losses insured in full, while major companies that have suffered significant damage are likely to have to shoulder some of the cost themselves.

Some 40,000 firms have been affected in the Ethekwini municipality in the province of KwaZulu-Natal alone, with damages in the area put at 15 billion rand, according to its mayor.

Violence has been concentrated in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s homeland, as well as the country’s economic and financial centre of Johannesburg and surrounding areas in the Gauteng province.

($1 = 14.6309 rand)

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Toby Chopra)