The devastation to the commercial property industry, and to the livelihoods of entrepreneurs, informal traders and businesses, of last week’s looting has been significant.

The SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa) – which represents over 800 organisations within the commercial property sector, with 90% of the nation’s commercial real estate being owned by the association’s members – says it is still too early to give a final count of all the destruction caused as things on the ground were still “fluid”.

However early assessments showed that shopping malls and retail outlets in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng had easily suffered more than R10 billion rand worth of damage, says Neil Gopal, chief executive of the Sapoa.

Damages range from “excessive” to “total collapse”, and some property owners may not even be able to rebuild once the crisis is over.

“Rebuilding may take two years depending on the extent and size of the centre. Some landlords may however decide to not rebuild as the risk is too high for future incidents.”

And the further tragedy is that owners have no measures left with which to protect their properties.

CEO of Redefine, Andrew Konig, speaking as Sapoa’s president, pointed to the significant contribution the industry makes to the country’s fiscus, and having their businesses struggle as a result of Covid-19, now suffering the dire consequences of last week’s looting and rioting.

“During 2020 and 2021, landlords had to bear the full brunt of the lockdown, and continued making payment of utilities and property rates to municipalities, even when properties were not rent-producing,” says Konig.

It has been calculated that so far about 800 stores were looted and 100 malls were either burnt down or suffered significant fire damage and a number of distribution centres, particularly in Durban, KwaZulu Natal, were looted with serious structural destruction.

Meanwhile, the eThekwini Economic Development and Planning Committee says about R1.5 bn has been lost in stock, a R15 bn loss to property, over 50 000 informal traders have lost their livelihoods, approximately 1.5 million people have lost their potential to earn an income and there are some 150 000 jobs at risk.

The overall result of the devastation is that there has been an estimated loss to the eThekwini GDP of upwards of R20 bn.
Malose Kekana, Sapoa president elect and CEO of Pareto Limited, said no one was spared in the looting and riots.

“For a very long-time, black entrepreneurs had no opportunities for investment and the events of the past few days have set back the positive strides that have been achieved over the past 25 years, particularly in previously underdeveloped areas.”

The disruption of the supply chain brought about by targeting distribution centres and the trucking industry in KwaZulu-Natal would also have a knock-on effect.

Whilst there is not a food shortage in the country, many of the agri-processing requirements rely on imported materials to package and process their end products.

Editor@tech-talk.co.za

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