With sinking hearts, we watched as KwaZulu-Natal fell victim to civil unrest, riots, and looting, seemingly with no one on hand to stop the perpetrators from causing massive destruction to lives and property. A clip showing a group of thugs breaking into Sumitomo Rubber’s (Dunlop) warehouse, and helping themselves to free stock, further highlighted the implications of this unruly uprising on business. Products to the value of R90m were stolen with serious implications to the business.
But it goes beyond that, begging the question, where did those stolen goods end up and what are the less obvious, yet equally grave, repercussions to the consumer?
Businesses across the board have been brought to their knees by the widespread theft, vandalism, and arson – from informal traders to large retail chains. The economic impact of
the anarchy and destruction will be massive, in a country that was already grappling with low economic growth and alarmingly high unemployment levels.
“There are massive implications, not just for the Dunlop business but for the entire value chain, including employees, the community and the supply chain,” warned Lubin Ozoux, CEO of SRSA.
“It’s been estimated that about 140 000 to 150 000 tyres were stolen in total during the civil unrest through looting from tyre warehouses, tyre dealers and spares dealers, including ours,” he added.
Going forward, SRSA has intensified the security presence at its other sites in Ladysmith, Jet Park, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Gqeberha and East London. “Thankfully, our Ladysmith factory was not breached but still remains a potential high-risk area. We will be re-looking at our distribution strategy. For key sites we are also looking to work closer with other businesses in the area to discuss measures we can take as a collective.
“Of course, there are the economic aspects where we’ll have a loss or shortage of stock and revenue. These incidents have also been deeply traumatic for us as a country, and especially for the communities in KZN and their families, including our own employees,” continued Ozoux.
“We are in the same situation as many other companies that were affected. Yes, we have insurance and will be claiming. But as mentioned earlier, the impact on retailers that could be losing their complete businesses should be the real area of concern. We need to find a way to support them through the coming months. The best way to do that is for consumers to say no to looted goods and support these businesses instead.”
According to Ozoux, the tyres now circulating in the market unlawfully are predominantly passenger/SUV and
motorcycle tyres. The company has been able to identify where a number of these stolen tyres ended up, by means of many tipoffs through their Looted Tyres Hotline, which they are passing on to SAPS. He went on to say that SAPS was diligently following up on these leads, plus leads generated via the internet.
“We are working with authorities and have seen various reports of stolen tyres being tracked down among other looted items in a number of locations in KwaZulu-Natal.
Say NO to looted tyres!
A growing number of consumers are buying tyres online, at a lesser price. Could they unknowingly be buying stolen goods? “It’s not the act of purchasing online that is the issue,” explained Ozoux. “We and others in the industry conduct our own sales online as well. What we do say, is that consumers should only purchase from reputable
manufacturers and suppliers who are able to deliver the correct advice and educate consumers on the best tyre option, without compromising the technical attributes of the vehicle.
“Tyres should also be fitted corrected and safely by a qualified professional. And for potential buyers of looted tyres, we would like to tell them: In the end, every tyre bought that was looted makes the purchaser part of the problem and will only incite similar behaviour in the future. It could be the purchaser the next time who is losing their employment or income” cautioned Ozoux
So how does one distinguish between legitimate tyres and those that are not? The easiest way, according to Ozoux, would be: “Bargain hunters beware! If a deal looks too good to be true, that advert on social media or online classifieds sites could actually be showing off goods stolen during the looting frenzy that took place in KZN and Gauteng last month.”
He went on to say that looted commodities are being offered at prices much lower than the normal pricing, on social media posts. “This is a clear indication that these items have been looted. We do not support, under any circumstance, the purchase of goods from anyone other a reputable manufacturer and supplier,” he said
“Bear in mind,” he added, “thieves prey on people looking for the best price. At a time that there is such a large volume of illegally obtained goods now circulating in the market, people will need to have their wits about them to ensure they do not indirectly support thievery,” added Ozoux.