Money and Markets

Looters damaged thousands of ATMs in Gauteng and KZN – and those unscathed aren’t being refilled

Business Insider SA

Banks ATM looted South Africa
(Getty Images)
  • South African bank branches and ATMs have been targeted in the recent wave of looting which in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal this week.
  • Approximately 1,400 cash machines have been vandalised, the Banking Association of South Africa confirmed to Business Insider SA.
  • It will take months for these branches and ATMs to return to service.
  • And even those which weren’t damaged won’t be refilled with cash until all signs of civil unrest have abated.
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South African banks and their automatic teller machines (ATMs) in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal have been targeted by looters in the wave of civil unrest in parts of the two provinces this week.

While the remains of looted shopping centres, stores, warehouses and factories smoulder following five days of riots, the country’s major banks are assessing the damages caused to their branches and ATMs.

In addition to the businesses which have been burnt to the ground, KwaZulu-Natal – and, to a lesser extended, Gauteng – is dealing with food and fuel shortages, typified by snaking queues at stores which managed to survive the unrest.

A further complication, that of limited cash withdrawals and deposits, has only added to the frustrations of residents in affected areas. South Africa’s major banks have confirmed that looters targeted their branches and ATMs, with man now closed either due to damage or as a safety precaution.

“The destruction of bank branches and automatic ATMs in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and threats to the safety of bank employees, directly imperils the safety, social security, economic activity, and jobs of many thousands of South Africans,” said the Banking Association of South Africa (Basa) on Tuesday morning, which, at the time, anticipated that hundreds of cash machines had been damaged.

The real number of machines destroyed, looted, and vandalised is much higher.

“Over 1,400 ATMs and close to 300 bank branches and post office outlets have been vandalised in the ongoing violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng as of yesterday [Thursday],” Basa told Business Insider South Africa on Friday afternoon.

“To safeguard their employees, banks were compelled to close over 1,300 branches between 12 and 14 July.”

Repairing and replacing damaged auto tellers and branches will not be quick, and it is expected to take months before all the affected facilities are brought back online. This is according to Capitec, which confirmed that more than 300 branches and ATMs had been forced to close during the unrest.

“ATMs in affected areas will not be supplied with cash or accept deposits until it is safe to do so,” Francois Viviers, Capitec’s marketing and communications executive, told Business Insider SA, urging customers to use their cards to pay for goods or their cell phones to do banking.

Other banks are reporting similar losses in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Bassa noted that South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) beneficiaries in the two provinces would be severely impacted by the destruction of ATMs and the inability to withdraw their monthly grant money.

“Nedbank can confirm that due to ongoing protest action it has taken the decision to temporarily close 224 branches, 59 boxer outlets… and about 320 ATMs have been vandalised,” a Nedbank spokesperson told Business Insider SA.

Absa and FNB also closed hundreds of branches in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal but did not detail how many facilities had been damaged in the looting.

“At a time when many South Africans are facing severe economic hardship, banks continue to play a critical role in providing financial relief and social stability,” added Basa.

“The destruction of branches and other networks that allow banks to reach their customers, as well as the cost of replacing infrastructure, will hamper these efforts.”

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