Francois Marais: “Safari’s been very fortunate and had no arson – But KZN is terrible”

Francois Marais is the founder of Safari, one of the bigger investors in South African township shopping malls. Marais joined the BizNews Power Hour to discuss the developments of looting and rioting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in particular, detailing the damage done to the group’s properties. Marais notes that while Safari’s properties saw damage, it was nowhere near as bad as what KwaZulu-Natal has gone through. Marais speaks in his personal capacity and no longer represents the views of Safari. – Jarryd Neves

Francois Marais on the risk to Safari’s properties:

We’ve got three three problem spots. The one is Denlyn in Mamelodi and the other one is Nkomo in Atteridgeville. Those two have been looted slightly, to put it gently, but nothing severe. Our worst case is we have to replace some broken glass. But otherwise, the insurance covers the loss of stock from the tenants – but it’s nothing compared to what’s happened elsewhere in the country. The one in Sebokeng has been hit more severely. There’s been looting going on but it’s nearly coming to an end now.

Again, our own loss is only the broken glass of the shops. Somehow, the people that looted got over the fence and came in and they’re busy there. But we’ve sent a special task force from our security that handles these type of happenings, and they are busy getting it under control. But Mamelodi and Nkomo is well under control. In all likelihood, those two centres will probably open, if not tomorrow, then the day following. The other one might take four or five days to recover and to repair the broken glass – and of course for the shops to be stocked again.

On the differences between looting and protesting in KZN and Gauteng:

It is very different. We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve had no arson – that hasn’t happened at all with us. I think in part it’s because we’ve kept a very special relationship with the local population. We’ve had, over the years, very good relationships with them. As a result, I think that has been bearing the fruit. In Mamelodi, there’s also the Mam’s mall on the eastern side – and that’s been very heavily looted with arson there – but we haven’t had the problem at all.

On assistance from the SA army:

[We’re not seeing the army being deployed]. None of them. In fact, the Minister of Defence, she announced on the news that she hasn’t deployed yet. She’s still considering it. Obviously, the sort of dilly-dallying will get us nowhere. But KZN is terrible. What’s happening there is really horrible. You know, SA Corp, I think, hold 17 properties in KwaZulu-Natal and they’ve been very heavily damaged and looted.

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