THE SOUTH African banking industry has sent a strong message condemning the violence that has gripped South Africa as the country’s top banks like Capitec Bank, Absa Bank and Nedbank Group have closed hundreds of their banking branches to limit the damage to their property.
However, banking shares yesterday escaped the destruction remaining in the black, with Absa closing at R132.05, FirstRand at R53.42, Nedbank at R165.01, and Standard Bank at R127.91.
The Banking Association of South Africa (Basa) yesterday said the destruction of bank branches and ATMs in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng and threats to the safety of bank employees directly imperilled the safety, social security, economic activity, and jobs of many thousands of South Africans.
“Banks and their staff are an essential part of our country’s economic infrastructure and provide vital services to the communities in which they operate. The destruction of branches and ATMs hampers the ability of South Africans to draw their salaries and make payments for their daily needs, and of businesses to operate and pay their staff and suppliers,” Basa said.
It added that when bank operations were forced to close and services were suspended to protect employees from violence, it was the most vulnerable in our communities who suffer the most.
Francois Viviers, the executive: marketing and communications manager at Capitec Bank, said the firm was concerned about the situation and its impact on their clients, employees, society and the economy.
“More than 300 of our branches and ATMs are currently closed because of the unrest. ATMs in affected areas will not be supplied with cash or accept deposits until it is safe to do so. The safety of our clients and employees remains our top priority,” Viviers said.
He urged their clients to use their cards which incur zero fees or to get and deposit cash at Checkers, Shoprite or Pick n Pay.
Nedbank has joined the fray by calling on organised labour, civil society, political parties, business and religious organisations to unite in condemning the violent lawlessness and criminality that has engulfed parts of the country in the past few days.
Nedbank chief executive Mike Brown said this comes at a time when South Africa could least afford it and called for urgent, broad-based leadership and decisive action to restore law and order.
“The devastating impact of Covid-19 has already caused tragic loss of lives and livelihoods. This lawlessness by some will result in even further devastation to the lives of many. It harms our country and all South Africans. No good can come of it,” Brown said.
A Nedbank spokesperson confirmed that the bank took a decision to temporarily close 226 branches and 59 Boxer outlets in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, adding that areas that were not affected by the unrest were operating as usual.
Brown said as the country grappled with an intensifying health crisis, the vaccination drive, which finally gained some momentum, could not be allowed to stall.
“The loss of lives and destruction of businesses and homes cannot be justified in any circumstances,” he said.
Absa Bank said the ongoing riots and acts of looting in some parts of the country had disrupted their business and caused an unsafe environment for their customers and employees.
“We have temporarily closed all our KwaZulu-Natal branches and some branches in the south and north Gauteng region. We have also closed branches in other parts of the country that are affected by this unrest,” Absa said. Absa has closed about 375 branches around the country, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, including few branches in Limpopo, Free State, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
Reana Steyn, the Ombudsman for Banking Services, said: “During these trying times, we are urging all banking clients to keep calm and to be aware that the violence will be causing some disruption to normal branch services. In addition to all the other challenges facing consumers, fraudsters will be more motivated than ever to take advantage of the current crises that is gripping the country. We need to be extra vigilant during these times.”