The National Shutdown of 20 March 2023 saw many businesses and institutions close down in fear of violence and destruction to their properties. To the contrary (credit being due to the protestors and overwhelming visibility of law enforcement) this was not the case. Whilst the anticipated damage was less than expected, it is nonetheless apt to consider the legalities associated with events such as national shutdown, strikes and protests in so far as they relate to business insurance.
Insurance claims linked to events such as protests, strikes, and national shutdowns fall within the ambit of SASRIA cover. Many will remember discussions around SASRIA cover in relation to the 2021 July Unrest events. Therefore, for a business or institution to claim in terms of a policy, that particular business will need to have a SASRIA cover extension in its short-term policy. It is worth noting that one cannot take out cover for SASRIA independently – it has to be an extension to an existing short-term insurance policy. Furthermore, given the frequency of the not-so-peaceful protests and strikes in our country, it is sagacious and imperative that businesses and individuals alike take out SASRIA cover as an extension to their short-term policies. Fortunately, SASRIA extension is offered at a reasonably lower premium.
The affected business will need to report the incident to the police and submit a claim with their insurer. In turn, their insurer will submit a claim with SASRIA. If the insured business does not have SASRIA cover, it will obviously not enjoy any protection and the owners will bear the losses themselves. If, however, there is a SASRIA cover in place, an insured business will have to demonstrate to the insurer through evidence that the damage suffered is linked to the events of a National Shutdown. Failure to demonstrate this may have undesirable repercussions for the claim, as it may be rejected. It may, for example, end up being a claim for theft against a short-term insurer – not against SASRIA. The reality is that nothing prevents a “normal” theft incident during a National Shutdown. This possibility is heightened by the fact that acts of violence and disruptive behaviour were almost non-existent – unlike with the 2021 July Unrest. If an insured business enjoys both SASRIA cover and theft cover, it should be able to claim successfully, as any dispute as to whether it was an isolated theft incident or incident linked to a National Shutdown will be between the 2(TWO) insurers. This may prolong finalisation of a claim for the insured but, ultimately, the insured should be indemnified either by their short-term insurer or SASRIA.
Insured businesses whose premises may have been vandalised during the National Shutdown need to promptly report this to the police, their broker and/or insurer. In cases where they are unsatisfied with the outcome of their claims, whether due to the claim being repudiated or their pay out being unsatisfactory, they should seek legal advice and challenge the insurer’s decision.