Business Maverick


R120m stolen from ATMs and banks in July’s looting spree

Damaged ATMs at Jabulani Mall in Soweto after the July looting. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick)

The official tally is in: R119,400,243, a number former president Jacob Zuma would no doubt battle to get his tongue around, was stolen from ATMs and banks during the wave of unrest that swept parts of Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal in July. That’s according to figures released on Wednesday by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) said that between 9 and 17 July, at least 1,227 ATMs and 310 bank branches were vandalised or destroyed during the mayhem unleashed in part by Jacob Zuma’s jailing, which killed more than 350 people. 

“Of the 1,227 ATMs, 256 were breached (broken into using force) and 36 were physically stolen from their sites which have not been recovered to date. In addition, 82 in-branch safes were breached as well,” Sabric said. 

Sabric did not provide a figure or estimate on the costs of the damage inflicted, but said the total amount of cash stolen was R119,400,243. That’s a very precise number, but most banks are better than VBS at keeping track of their cash. 

“The theft of R119,400,243 in hard cash is very concerning. Not all notes are dye-stained and millions in unsoiled notes will be injected back into the economy. This money is the proceeds of crime and there is now a war chest available to fund more organised crime, to corrupt more officials and to promote lawlessness,” said Sabric CEO Nischal Mewalall. 

The economic cost of the unrest is still being tallied and will likely never be precisely known. For example, it will be impossible to calculate the amount of investment deterred by the explosion of violence and criminality. The South African Reserve Bank said on Wednesday in its annual report presentation to Parliament that it estimated the unrest would shave 0.4 percentage points off gross domestic product (GDP) growth for this year, but it noted that private sector estimates — which inform investor decisions — run as high as 0.7 percentage points. 

Much of that stolen money will presumably be spent and this will be reflected in the GDP data as the cash is washed through the economy. Meanwhile, 36 stolen ATMs remain at large. Could some be hanging on walls as trophies? DM/BM


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