South Africa’s major mobile network operators have closed a number of their stores and call centres due to the raging public violence across KwaZulu-Natal.
Shops across the province and in the areas of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, in particular, have been hit by rampant looting in the last few days.
Under the guise of the #FreeZuma campaign, which is calling for people to take to the streets in support of former president Jacob Zuma, many people have ransacked stores for food, clothing, electronics, and general goods.
Videos on social media even show opportunistic plunderers making off with big-screen TVs and stripping cars at a vehicle dealership of their engines and wheels.
A number of shops have also been badly damaged and set alight.
According to police, more than 200 people had been arrested by 8:30 on Monday morning, prior to further looting throughout the day.
Malls and shopping centres have been major targets in the attacks, prime locations for cellular stores.
One tweet showed a group of people raiding a Cell C store in Tongaat Central before police arrive on the scene.
It was not immediately clear what items the group had made off with.
— Durban 📀 KwaZulu-Natal #031 🏊🏾♀️ (@curateDurban) July 12, 2021
Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, and Cell C have told MyBroadband that their operations had been severely impacted.
“Given the current protests, all Vodacom stores in KwaZulu-Natal, many stores in Gauteng, and certain stores in other provinces have been closed on a temporary basis,” said Vodacom.
After monitoring the incidents of rioting and looting in the province, MTN kept most of its stores in KwaZulu-Natal closed on Monday.
“The bulk of our stores in KZN were not open today, due to the ongoing risk of violence both related to the stores and public transport systems that have also been targeted,” said MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan.
In addition, the operator’s primary call centre in KwaZulu-Natal was heavily impacted and operating at minimal capacity.
MTN said it expects to provide a further update overnight, and MyBroadband was told more store closures were possible across the country.
Cell C also confirmed that several of its stores in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng had been vandalised.
As a precautionary measure, the operator temporarily closed a number of stores.
“We are assessing the exact number of stores impacted and the extent of these incidents and will provide a further update when we have details,” Cell C said.
Telkom officially shut down all its stores in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday, and certain stores in some other parts of the country.
“Please note that from 13 July 2021 all Telkom stores across the country will be closed until the situation can be assessed fully and it can be established that it is completely safe to resume business activities,” the company said.
The four operators said the safety of their customers and employees were the first priority, and advised customers to use their respective mobile apps and other self-service channels for assistance at this time.
These are outlined below:
- USSD – *135#
- WhatsApp – 082 009 8624
- Call centre – 082 135
- Website – www.vodacom.co.za
- USSD – *136#
- WhatsApp – 083 123 0011
- Facebook –
- Twitter –
- Website – www.mtn.co.za
- WhatsApp – 081 160 1700
- Website – https://secure.telkom.co.za/today/campaign/self-service
- Call from Cell C – Dial 130
- Call from other network – Dial 084 135
Telkom did not respond to requests for comment on how the looting impacted their operations.