South African online shoppers should expect delays in the deliveries of their orders in the coming days due to looting sprees and public violence in areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Couriers are among the businesses hit by the plundering, with warehouses being damaged, equipment stripped and vandalised, and customers’ packages being stolen.
The Courier Guy, DSV, and Value Logistics were among those who had their depots in Westmead in Durban looted.
In a notice on its website, The Courier Guy said it was running on skeleton staff at kiosks and branches in KwaZulu-Natal for the sake of their safety.
“Please note that all office equipment was also stolen so communication with the Durban branch is very limited,” the company said.
The tweet below shows the scene at the depot after the looting.
If you sent me something with the courier guy, please resend.🤔 pic.twitter.com/8QBW1ntSxV
— Kobus (@KobusOlivier7) July 12, 2021
The Courier Guy is a member of the South African Express Parcels Association (Saepa).
Saepa CEO Garry Marshall told MyBroadband it could take that depot around a month to be back up and running.
In the broader picture, Marshall said the situation was serious.
“Durban is an absolute mess, many of our members have had their places burnt, certainly looted,” he stated.
While there have been no reports of damage to the depots of courier partners in Gauteng, a number of prominent businesses in the provinces that use courier services have closed their doors as a precaution.
“It is confined mostly to Durban and Gauteng, in the rest of the country none of our members is reporting any issues at all, they are all saying it’s very quiet,” Marshall said.
Despite the impact being limited to these areas, Marshall said the situation was disrupting supply chains, which would have a bigger impact on services across the country.
“When Gauteng goes down, it has a knock-on impact on volumes and deliveries throughout the rest of the country,”
“Although things are peaceful in those places, the volume of work has definitely slowed down dramatically yesterday, as much as 50%,” Marshall said.
Online shopping retailer Raru said its biggest impact has been on courier deliveries to customers in the affected areas in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
In addition, a number of its suppliers in Gauteng said they would not be processing orders for a while.
“We will have to see how the coming days play out. As soon as it is safe to do so again, courier deliveries will resume,” Raru said.
Marshall also expects there to be further impact down the line as people placed orders to replace looted goods.
In addition, there will be pent-up demand for those customers who are unable to get their orders fulfilled.
Online orders from Massmart companies like Game and Makro are also likely to experience significant delays, as several of these KZN-based outlets were ransacked.
The tweet below shows looters moving in and out of a Massmart distribution centre which holds stock for Game and other stores.
— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) July 13, 2021
Marshall reiterated that the courier industry spends millions on private security for protection, but the overriding concern of the companies was to look after the well-being of employees and customers.
None of Saepa’s members has reported any incidents in which any employee had lost a life due to the violence.
Notably, Marshall said the Courier Guy depot which was raided had 10 armed security guards to protect it.
However, when the crowds arrived, the police told them not to fire at the looters.
“There was no defence, they just overran it, simple as that. They just had to allow it,” Marshall said.
The looting has also jeopardised South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout, with certain Covid-19 vaccination sites in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng forced to close due to the unrest.
Marshall said it was fortunate that vaccines were mostly moved by air, eliminating the risk of looting during transit.
However, he warned it’s possible that more organised syndicates would exploit the chaotic circumstances to plunder high-value targets, which could include Covid-19 vaccines.