BANKS FEEL PINCH OF RIOTS

Date: 31 Jul 2021

DESTRUCTION: MONTH-END SHOPPING AFFECTED IN LOOTED AREAS

Emergency teams working around the clock to ensure grants, salaries are paid.’

Banking in looted areas is heavily affected at month-end, with latest reports indicating that 1 223 automatic teller machines (ATMs) and 269 bank branches were destroyed in the unrest.

But as safety and security is restored, banks are rebuilding and restoring ATMs financial networks.

In some affected areas, ATMs and branches have already been repaired and restored to full service, while banks are also encouraging their clients to use digital banking platforms, says Bongiwe Kunene, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Banking Association.

“Despite the destruction of cashpoints, there is currently no shortage of cash in the affected areas. Bank emergency response teams are working around the clock to ensure that social grants and salaries will be paid as usual at the end of this month.

“Social grant recipients who live in areas where ATMs and branches were destroyed will be able to use any ATM, including those not operated by their own banks, without incurring additional charges from 1 August to 30 September.”

Tshiwela Mhlantla, managing executive for physical channels at Absa, says more than 200 ATMs and 22 branches were damaged during the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.

“We are working hard to recover the compromised ATMs and to ensure cash services are restored in compromised areas.”

Absa has introduced targeted solutions to assist customers by deploying mobile ATMs to parts of KwaZulu-Natal to alleviate pressure, particularly for the pending Sassa grants pay period. Absa will also subsidise the fees charged when a customer uses a Saswitch ATM from Sunday and cash withdrawal fees have also been reduced at non-Absa ATMs.

Retail customers with transactional accounts can withdraw cash at point-of sale terminals free of charge.

Lee-Anne van Zyl, CEO of FNB points of presence, confirmed that 90% of its ATMs are operating normally and says that they are working hard to restore full functionality across FNB’s ATM network. “We continue working with all our stakeholders to repair the damage to our branch infrastructure within a reasonable period.”

FNB clients are encouraged to continue using the bank’s digital channels, including the FNB App, online and cellphone banking for most transactions.

Standard Bank experienced vandalism at 33 of its branches and 220 of its ATMs, says Kabelo Makeke, head of consumer clients at the bank. “The social unrest resulted in destruction of some banking infrastructure and clients may experience difficulties in accessing certain ATM cash points in the affected areas.”

The bank has dispatched mobile ATMs to affected areas to ensure access to cash facilities and clients can also withdraw cash at participating retailers. Standard reduced its ATM cash withdrawal fees since January, permanently removing Saswitch fees that clients used to pay when withdrawing cash from other banks’ ATMs.

According to Preni Naidoo, executive: self-service banking at Nedbank, 290 of its ATMs were destroyed and 35 which were damaged can be repaired.

Capitec says over 300 of its branches and ATMs are currently closed due to the unrest and

ATMs in affected areas will not deal in cash until it is safe to do so.

“We urge our clients to use their cards, which incur zero fees, or to get and deposit cash at Checkers, Shoprite or Pick n Pay till points when it is safe to do so. Alternatively, bank on your phone from anywhere, anytime.”

African Bank channel executive Shannon Timothy says 32 of the bank’s 396 national branches were damaged, with 17 of them in shopping centres in KwaZulu-Natal and 15 in the townships and surrounding areas of Gauteng.

“The damage to our branch infrastructure is however extensive and our team is quantifying the losses and conducting site assessments so that branch sites can be reinstated as quickly as possible. Some of the closed branches will take some time to restore, but no employee retrenchments are anticipated.”

African Bank does not have an ATM network and relies on other banking networks, many of which were damaged. But the bank has partnerships with various retailers where cash can be withdrawn or deposited.

There is no shortage of cash in the affected areas.

By Ina Opperman

 

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