IMPACT OF CIVIL UNREST IN SOUTH AFRICA ON WHL
WHL echoes the sadness and deep concern expressed by many over the civil unrest in the province of KwaZulu Natal (KZN) and parts of Gauteng, which escalated into widespread looting and destruction of property in the affected areas. This has had a significant impact on our operations in these areas, particularly in KZN, as well as on our employees, customers and the broader community. We are grateful that none of our employees in these affected areas suffered any injury.
All of our stores in KZN as well as a number of stores in Gauteng last week had to temporarily close, prioritising the safety of our employees and our customers. Our online delivery services and certain suppliers in those areas are also significantly affected given significant damage to their assets. Eleven Woolworths stores have been looted and severely damaged with nine of the eleven stores in KZN and two in Gauteng. Although looters gained entry to the Woolworths Maxmead Distribution Centre (DC) in KZN the infrastructure was not severely damaged and has been secured, together with our other DCs. Operations have resumed and we have prioritized the provision of food into KZN.
We are working closely with our suppliers and partners to ensure the ongoing availability of stock. This is largely dependent on maintaining the safety of key transport routes, the ability of local suppliers to continue production, the ability of our staff to access our stores, and the safety of our logistics and distribution operations. We are also engaging with government and industry bodies to support efforts to create a safe environment for the resumption of normal business activity. Where we believe it is safe and feasible to do so, we have begun reopening stores in most areas of KZN.
WHL has SA Special Risk Insurance Assurance (SASRIA) cover in place in respect of material damage caused by the rioting, together with the related business interruption cover. We are quantifying the damage caused to our stores and DC and will lodge the relevant claims timeously.
We would like to express our deep gratitude to our stores, supply chain and DC teams, as well as our security personnel and partners who have worked tirelessly to protect our business. We would also like to thank all of our customers for their understanding and continued support as we work our way through these challenges, and the community watch groups who also assisted where they could. The last 18 months has demonstrated the resilience of our business, driven by the passion and commitment of our people. The WHL board and management team will continue to make decisions anchored in the business’s core values and are committed to ensuring long-term value creation for all stakeholders.
Extract from statement issued by Woolworths Holdings Limited through the JSE SENS Service, 19 July 2021