SA insurance industry’s nightmare gets a fresh Stephen King moment

Over the past few weeks, South African short-term insurers – with the notable exception of Outsurance – have refused to pay claims on Business Interruption policies. Their argument, articulated to us by Santam’s chief risk officer Asher Grevler, is SA companies were stopped from operating by the Government – not Covid-19.

Grevler’s argument dropped into the dumpster yesterday when Mr Justice Andre le Grange ruled that one of its competitors, Guardrisk, must settle a Business Interruption claim, the first of many to be heard in court. Indeed, the Judge found for a Cape Town restaurant Cafe on every count – including that the insurer must pay the Cafe Chameleon’s legal costs.

As fate would have it, Santam held its annual general meeting for shareholders yesterday. Whether by accident or design, our reporters were unable to get into the Zoom meeting. But we were provided a recording of proceedings by activists Just Share. During the AGM Santam said it has seen the judgment but that this doesn’t change its approach. Erm, yarwellnofine…

If there were a Darwin Award for business, right now Santam would get my vote. Yesterday’s High Court judgement suggests the company will get roasted in court. But by digging in, its managers are causing the brand masses of needless reputational damage. Someone should tell CEO Lizé Lambrechts and her crew when you’re in a hole, best stop digging.

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