Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
4 minute read
11 May 2022
2:16 pm

‘Biggest in history’: State insurer blames police for R27bn loss from July riots

Molefe Seeletsa

Sasria has received more than R20 billion from the government to recover from the loss.

Shop owners clean up what little remains of their shops after recent looting in Actonville, Benoni on 13 July 2021. Picture: Neil McCartney

The South African Special Risks Insurance Association (Sasria) has seemingly laid the blame for its historical financial loss as a result of the 2021 July unrest at the door of the South African Police Service (Saps).

Two weeks ago, Sasria informed Parliament’s Select Committee on Finance that it is projected to suffer a loss of approximately R27.8 billion in the 2021/22 financial year, compared to a profit of R2 billion in the previous year.

This is despite receiving more than R20 billion as a capital injection from the National Treasury.

‘Biggest loss in history’

Briefing the Standing Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday morning, Sasria’s new CEO Mpumelelo Tyikwe explained that the non-life insurance company’s solvency capital ratio – currently at 68% – went down significantly because of the unrest and claims from businesses that were affected.

Tyikwe said this was Sasria’s greatest loss since the company was created in 1979.

“It is now commonly known that Sasria experienced the biggest loss in its history,” he said.

“With this biggest loss that we have had in our trading history, Sasria’s solvency dropped way below the 100% that is required by the Prudential Authority necessitating its sole shareholder, which is the state through Treasury, to inject a capital amount of R22 billion,” he added.

The CEO said Sasria would not need the capital injection from the government if Saps had responded earlier to the riots.

“Normally as insurance people when we come up with scenarios. In our [case] for Sasria we always believe that the police or security forces will respond within 48 hours of particular unrest.

ALSO READ: We have money to pay out unrest claims, says state insurer Sasria

“As members would know a three-man panel published their report and in the report, it does indicate that the police didn’t respond as swiftly as they normally do with this specific unrest.

“So if the unrest was stopped within three days of them starting, we could have avoided the claims that followed thereafter. If that was the case, Sasria would have been able to maintain its solvency and wouldn’t require a capital injection,” he said.

Responding to questions later in the briefing, Tyikwe said Sasria was “designed to handle events of up to R17 billion”.

“In the last 42 years, we have been able to respond to civil unrest and we haven’t come to Parliament to ask for assistance.

“What made this event unique was that the unrest played out over a period of time and as the time went longer that losses became bigger. That we did not anticipate and don’t think anyone for that matter anticipated it. If the event was R17 billion, Sasria would have been able to comfortably handle it.”

July Riots report

President Cyril Ramaphosa in February authorised the release of the 154-report into the July 2021 riots.

In the key findings the detailed of the report, a panel of experts concluded the police’s response was ineffective.

The experts said the police had insufficient capacity to curb the violence and the size of the crowds made it impossible to stop the looting that took place in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) as well as in Gauteng.

“The police failed to stop the rioting and looting in July 2021. The reasons for this failure are complex and sometimes not of their making. In some instances, they did not get any intelligence upon which to plan operations,” the report reads.

The 8 to 19 July riots resulted in more than 330 people losing their lives, and cost R25 billion in damages.

R37 billion in claims

Meanwhile, Tyikwe said the capital injection will help Sasria cover claims of about R37 billion arising from the violent riots.

“The funding will be used to pay the claims that have arisen, which the last time we look were close to R37 billion. The second thing the [funds] will be used for is to recapitalise Sasria so that we meet our solvency capital requirements,” he said.

The CEO made an assurance that the funds will not be used “for any other purpose”.

“We won’t be paying off our expenses and things like that,” he said.

READ MORE: Businesses to pay more for unrest insurance as Sasria adjusts premiums

Tykiwe said Sasria was projecting to have its solvency capital ratio above 100% by June 2022.

“I must add that should we experience a loss or an event that [will cost] about R3 billion between now and March 2023, our solvency will again drop to 91%,” he added.

He, however, said told the solvency projection was made assuming that Sasria would have settled 90% of the claims in their backlog.

“For June 2022, we assumed that 90% of the July 2021 claims will be paid,’ Tykiwe continued.

Sasria has paid out R22.7 million (61.97%) in claims so far, while R13.9 billion is still outstanding.

Tykiwe has indicated that Sasria expect to increase its premium by 38%.