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State insurer Sasria in talks over larger bailout after July protests, looting

08 September 2021 - 13:04 By Wendell Roelf
A SANDF soldier patrols a looted mall In Alexandra, Johannesburg, in this file photo from July.
A SANDF soldier patrols a looted mall In Alexandra, Johannesburg, in this file photo from July.

SA's state-owned insurance company Sasria is in talks with National Treasury for a larger bailout than the R3.9bn already promised, its MD told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

Sasria, the only insurer covering political violence in SA, has suffered a sudden deterioration in its financial position after some of the worst violence in the postapartheid era erupted in July soon after the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma.

More than 300 people died and about 3,000 shops were looted in the immediate aftermath of Zuma's arrest, with anger over entrenched poverty and inequality fuelling the violence. The economic impact in the two worst-hit provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, is estimated at tens of billions of rand.

“The R3.9bn we are talking about will not be enough on claims of between R20bn and R25bn,” said Sasria MD Cedric Masondo .

“The liquidity is not as big a problem for us as solvency ... because we need to recapitalise the business. When we had a good balance sheet of R10bn, the riots wiped out that balance sheet so we need to recapitalise,” he said.

Using a R20bn claims figure, Masondo said preliminary figures suggested Sasria would need an injection of about R5.6bn to meet regulatory solvency.

“If the claims are above R25bn we need probably (an) additional R7bn,” he said.

Last month, Masondo said the insurance company would increase its premiums to cover a rise in reinsurance costs linked to the July riots.

Sasria is the latest state company to turn to government for bailouts, with Eskom and SAA major beneficiaries in recent years. The government is trying to close the tap on further handouts, given the weak state of the economy.