Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
4 minute read
29 Jul 2021
6:07 pm

Month-end banking heavily affected in looted areas

Ina Opperman

With many bank branches and ATMs destroyed or damaged during the recent unrest and looting, clients are worried how they will do their banking, but its seems that the banks have a plan.

ATMS that were opened up at the Pan Africa Mall in Alexandra, 14 July 2021 after mass looting happened in the area. Picture: Neil McCartney

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. As safety and security is restored, banks are rebuilding and restoring ATM 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, 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 2021.”

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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 pay period. Absa will also subsidise the fees charged when a customer uses a Saswitch ATM from 1 August 2021 and cash withdrawal fees have also been reduced at non-Absa ATMs).

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

ALSO READ: Mams Mall looting: ‘The destruction is painful to see’


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 cell phone banking for most transactions.

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Standard Bank

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 Bank reduced its ATM cash withdrawal fees since 1 January 2021, 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 approximately 35 which were damaged can be repaired.

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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

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. However, the bank has partnerships with various retailers where cash can be withdrawn or deposited.