SAPOA's calls for help

Property owners' association says by the 14th July 800 stores had been looted, 100 malls fire damaged

Press statement

Monday, 12 July 2021

SAPOA calls for punitive and decisive action

Following this weekend’s spate of unrest across South Africa, SAPOA strongly condemns the incidents of looting and malicious damage to retail property centres.

SAPOA further points out that this maliciousness and damage to infrastructure and other property, is only going to further exacerbate the country’s socio-economic challenges, the broader financial impact of the looting and property destruction undermines the country’s economic confidence and will in all likelihood result in a greater economic downturn.

“It’s deplorable,” say SAPAO CEO, Neil Gopal, “whilst people have the right to protest, they do not have the right to destroy property and steal. We recognise and respect the rights of every South African to protest peacefully and freely express their views on any matter of concern, our constitution affords us that right. However, these protesters must respect the rights of others.”

“Clearly our police services are being overwhelmed and are ill equipped to deal with the magnitude, scale and nature of the violence and destruction that is happening around us.

We are pleased that the Presidency has deployed the South African National Defence Force to help curb the situation, and for those who have been arrested to feel the full might of the law and be given punitive jail sentences that reflect our society’s disdain of this criminal behaviour.”

N Gopal


Tuesday, 13 July 2021

SAPOA calls for greater action

It is clear from yesterday’s and last night’s escalation of looting and destruction of retail outlets and shopping centres in the Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal provinces, that shopping centres are being targeted and are first in line with regards to looting. This anarchy has resulted in well over R10b worth of damage.

Neil Gopal, SAPOA CEO says, “Even though President Cyril Ramaphosa appealed last night for calm and has authorised the deployment of 2500 SANDF personnel, these security measures are simply not enough to quell this level of violence and destruction of private property.”

“We appeal to the Presidency to significantly increase the number of soldiers to be deployed with immediate effect.”

“Disturbingly, we are also seeing food distribution centres in Durban being looted and destroyed. This will further exacerbate the crisis and have lasting implications on our food security and the food chain in general. Even if we can get distribution centres to deliver to our supermarkets, it will not be possible for the public to purchase goods at malls that have already been burnt and vandalised, or simply closed due to threats of violence.”

“We are also alarmed that citizens are now arming themselves in an attempt to protect their own property. This is not surprising (in the absence of policing), but it is a dangerous situation if not brought under control.”

SAPOA calls upon the Presidency to urgently:

1. Increase the deployment of more soldiers with immediate effect;

2. Declare certain areas of the economy like the ports, hospitals, clinics, food distribution centres, communications towers, shopping centres etc as key national points to be guarded by the military;

3. Restore law and order;

4. Ensure that the soldiers and SAPS keep citizens in their communities and that citizens stay indoors;

5. Ensure that the Covid19 vaccination programme is back on track and that

6. Law enforcement agencies act swiftly and decisively against the perpetrators of violence and unlawful acts.

Kind regards


Chief Executive Officer


Thursday, 14th July 2021

Property industry united in call for more effective law enforcement

Earlier today, SAPOA held a press briefing to unpack some of the issues surrounding the ongoing looting and destruction of shopping centres, retail outlets and distribution centres.

At the briefing were Andrew Konig, SAPOA President and CEO of Redefine, SAPOA CEO, Neil Gopal, Malose Kekana, SAPOA President elect and CEO of Pareto Limited, former SAPOA president Estienne de Klerk, Chairman of SAREITs and CEO of Growthpoint Properties.

The panel was also joined by Michael Lawrence, Executive Director of the National Clothing Retail Federation of South Africa.

SAPOA represents over 800 organisations within the commercial property sector, with 90% of the nation’s commercial real estate being owned by the association’s members. Andrew Konig, as SAPOA’s President, pointed to the significant contribution the industry makes to the country’s fiscus, and having their businesses struggle as a result of Covid19, now suffering the dire consequences of criminal activity and rioting.

“During 2020 and 2021, landlords had to bear the full brunt of the lockdown, and continued making payment of utilities and property rates to Municipalities even when properties were not rent producing.” said Andrew Konig

It has been calculated to date, some 800 stores have been looted and 100 malls have been either been burnt down or have suffered significant fire damage and a number of distribution centres particularly in Durban, KwaZulu Natal, have been looted with serious structural destruction.

He quoted from estimated figures supplied by the eThekwini Economic Development and Planning Committee, stating that some R1.5 bn has been lost in stock, R15 bn loss to property, over 50,000 informal traders have lost their livelihoods, approximately 1.5 million people have lost their potential to earn an income and there are some 150,000 jobs at risk. The overall result of the past five days of devastation is that there has been an estimated loss to the eThekwini GDP of upwards of R20 bn.

Malose Kekane dispelled an opinion that it is only white-owned monopoly capital funded properties that is being targeted. He said that no one has been spared. “For a very long-time, black entrepreneurs had no opportunities

for investment and the events of the past few days has set back the positive strides that have been achieved over the past 25 years particularly in previously underdeveloped areas. Many of the malls that have made the daily news, these are owned by black property professionals.”

He added that in many cases, those malls that are in the black townships were built to improve the lives of the communities that they serve, and those that are going to be most affected by the loss of income will be the very people that the malls were set up to serve.

Kekana alluded to investors who are likely to think twice, before investing further, which ultimately will affect the growing trend of youth unemployment in the country and the immediate ability of those who depended on those centres to earn a living.

Estienne de Klerk added the SAREIT’s voice in strongly condemning the looting and wanton destruction of property and reiterated SAPOA’s call on the government to step up security measures. He has in the past talked of the ailing economy prior to the initial lockdown, where the country was plunged into level 5 lockdown, he reiterated that REIT members have already supported affected tenants with rent relief. As an industry the commercial property sector has continued to pay during the pandemic, its way towards municipal rates, taxes and services, and interest obligations all without any assistance or relief from government.

That being said, he pledged the industry’s continued support to vulnerable businesses and to South Africa’s economy at large. However, he is deeply concerned by the potential breakdown of supply chains caused by the looting and vandalism of distribution centres and the down steam affect it will have on the end user.

“When it comes to security at shopping centres, he said the reality is that the private sector can’t self-help and that they must rely on the local law enforcement agencies to provide adequate protection.” says de Klerk

He added his concern about the slow response that government has shown in reacting to the anarchy that is sweeping across the country.

Michael Lawrence, representing the retail clothing sector, also pointed to the significant contribution that his industry plays towards the government’s fiscus. His concern is that Durban, as a port, handles 70% of all imports into South Africa. The disruption of the supply chain brought about by targeting distribution centres and the trucking industry in KwaZulu Natal will have a knock-on effect. Whilst there is not a food shortage in the country, many of the agri-processing requirements rely on imported materials to package and process their end products.

He has been in conversation with various agencies about establishing armed secure convoys to protect trucking. At this stage, it is too early to disclose what action is being considered. It is safe to say that there are many considerations to be entered into, such as what type of goods, where they need to go and how they will be transported, all need to be discussed with multiple stakeholders in the transport sector.

The group added that the repair and the re-opening of malls, where a mall has been burned to the ground, is likely to take at least two years, whilst those that have suffered relatively little damage may take a couple of months.

SAPOA thanks and acknowledges the effort and good work of SANTACO, those communities that are risking their lives and members of civic society, in protecting shopping centres. The association’s CEO, Neil Gopal, reiterated his call to the Presidency to urgently:

1.    Increase the deployment of more soldiers with immediate effect;

2.    Declare certain areas of the economy, ports, hospitals, clinics, food distribution centres, communication towers and shopping centres as key national points to be guarded by the military;

3.    Restore law and order;

4.    Ensure that soldier and SAPS keep citizens in their communities and that citizens stay indoors, there has been a precedent set, in that level 5 lockdown established that it is possible;

5.    Ensure that the COVID 19 vaccination programme is put back on track;

6.    Law enforcement agencies should act swiftly and decisively against perpetrators of violence and unlawful acts.

Neil Gopal

Statements issued by SAPOA on the 12, 13, 14 July 2021