Transnet declared force majeure on July 12th 2021 saying that it was discontinuing terminal operations in the port of Durban and Richards Bay. The South African logistics company said their decision was due to concerns for the safety of their workers and the lack of capacity to travel safely in the cities. Transnet however declined a statement that looting had occurred at the ports.
The temporary shutdown comes after days of violence in South Africa that started after the country’s former president was confined on contempt of court charges for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry. As soon as Jacob Zuma surrendered to police to begin serving a 15-month sentence, demonstrations across the country began. there were initial demonstrations in his home province in eastern South Africa, which hosts the ports.
The protests escalated after a few days and spread to other major localities, Johannesburg included. On Monday, July 12, there were encounters of looting and setting on fire of a shopping mall. Warehouses were alos looted and roads blocked. According to The Wall Street Journal, at least 72 people were killed. the Associated Press also reported that over 400 people were arrested by the South African security forces in attempt to impede further violence.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called upon the citizens to be calm, vowing that the authorities will arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. He added that they will do everything in their power to manage the threat of violence, intimidation, theft, and looting.
Transnet in a statement wrote “the violence has now reached proportions beyond the control of the local law enforcement and security services. Unfortunately, due to the civil unrest the company said it had to suspend work at the general terminals in both ports, although S&P Platts is quoting sources saying that coal operations appeared to be continuing, but that additional disruptions were expected at the ports.”
Among other firms that declared a force majeure are Shell and BP South African Petroleum Refineries.