Supply Chain Functioning During Civil Unrest


Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse after the third wave of the pandemic in South Africa, they did. Over the past few weeks, there has been significant civil unrest throughout the country, and especially in KwaZulu Natal. The rioting and looting during this time caused major damage to buildings and businesses, as well as injuring some people. It also had a big impact on the supply chain, with trucks being burnt and major roads being damaged. We take a closer look at supply chain functioning during civil unrest. 

The Damage

In order to gain a better understanding of how the supply chain was impacted, we need to get an idea of the damage caused due to the civil unrest. During this time, the Port of Durban had to close due to the riots and looting, and parts of the N2, N3 and N4 had to be closed. Trucks and their cargo were also destroyed, and we saw a number of shops, factories, distribution centres and shopping malls being destroyed. Many homes were also damaged. 

What’s Being Done

The South African Association of Freight Forwarders (Saaff) has called for a collective response from the private sector to the situation of civil unrest. The organisation has been busy formulating a seven-point plan to restore normality and enable supply chains to continue functioning.  “Cargo needs to move. Balance needs to be restored to the import and export of cargo, and fluidity needs to be factored back into the system. Essential cargo needs to be prioritised. Our plan addresses these elements,” says Saaff chairperson Dr Juanita Maree. As the country is trying to recover from the economic damage caused by the global pandemic, we can’t afford for transport corridors, be they via road or sea, to be closed. 

Beyond South Africa

The disruption to supply chains was not only felt in South Africa, but also by other landlocked countries in the SADC region who are reliant on South Africa for imports such as food, pharmaceuticals, fuel, and other important items. These countries will now use alternate routes to export goods, which will be a loss to the Port of Durban and ultimately South Africa. 

While we could never have planned for what took place over these few weeks of civil unrest, we can say for certain that the impact on the supply chain was great. We look forward to seeing the seven-point plan that Saaff is working on, and this could provide some guidance should the country be faced with a situation such as this in the future. Despite the damage caused, it was inspiring to see communities unite to rebuild. TSI salutes you!

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