LISTEN | Joburg shop & petrol station owners anxious as panic-buying soars and possible shortages loom

14 July 2021 - 14:58 By jessica levitt
Shoppers have emptied shelves at a SuperSpar in Johannesburg after fears supplies may run out.
Shoppers have emptied shelves at a SuperSpar in Johannesburg after fears supplies may run out.
Image: Jessica Levitt

Grocery shop managers and petrol station owners have described to TimesLIVE how panic-buying has caught them off guard amid concerns of possible shortages of select essential items not only in KwaZulu-Natal but in Gauteng too.

Violence has gripped SA after looters destroyed shops, blocked roads and burned trucks across the country. The burning of trucks and blocking of the N3 highway between KZN and Gauteng has affected the delivery of items.

Durban shoppers are hunting down the little stock that is available in only a handful of stores.

Here is what Johannesburg business owners had to say: 

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We will be facing a huge risk of food insecurity and medication insecurity in a few weeks.”

Agri SA, the country's main agricultural body, said farmers have been unable to get their produce to shops and markets. 

SA Cane Growers said sugar mills in KZN had been hit hard as cane farms were set alight, mills threatened and trucks hijacked.

The manager of a SuperSpar in Johannesburg admitted shelves were emptying because of panic-buying, but said there would be shortages in the next week because of supply issues.

“For the people who don't have money now to buy, and they come next week, there may be some shortages. I can't say what or if it will happen, but it is a possibility.”

The manager of a Checkers store in Johannesburg said they predicted milk shortages in stores. He said there wasn't concern about other products, but said milk would run out across stores by Thursday.

The owner of a Shell garage in Joburg said he had been on edge since the looting started.

“There is fuel, but getting it to Gauteng is not safe. We have to protect our staff. I'm scared. None of us know what is going to come around the corner. It could happen at any point.”

He said the truck supplying fuel to his garage did not arrive on Wednesday and his petrol station would run out of petrol by Wednesday afternoon.

“How are we going to pay staff? How will we pay rent? I always make a plan for my staff, but this is going to hit us.”

At a Shell garage in Melville, Johannesburg, lines started by 9am.

One of the service station's two ATMs was already shuttered and pump attendants could not say when it would be reopened,” said one eyewitness.

Meat was sold out at a Woolworths store in Johannesburg as shoppers bought in bulk, fearful supply shortages may hit them.
Meat was sold out at a Woolworths store in Johannesburg as shoppers bought in bulk, fearful supply shortages may hit them.
Image: Jessica Levitt

Customers had also snapped up the garage's last supplies of 25l gas cylinders, which they were rolling out of the door to their vehicles

Meanwhile, a Sasol petrol station owner in Johannesburg said he expected his pumps to run dry by Wednesday night. 

“We've been told there is fuel, but where is it? I don't see it. My truck won't arrive and I don't expect to have petrol for the rest of the week.”

The owner also spoke about safety concerns for his staff.

“It's dark when they start their shift. Most people have made it, maybe they've been late. But they are scared. We are all scared.”

* The names of the owners and managers have been withheld to protect their identities as they fear being targeted for speaking out.


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