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Crime wave warning for South Africa

Security experts and insurer Auto & General has warned South Africans to be vigilant as extended periods of load shedding have led to a sharp spike in crime in the country.

The group said that it has seen a 40% increase in the number of burglaries reported in the first two weeks of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

“The frequency of load shedding is one of the reasons for this spike,” the group said.

The increase in crimes at the home goes hand-in-hand with warnings from major metros in the country, which have been placed on a high alert to tackle elevated levels of vandalism and theft of public infrastructure.

Theft cases are so bad in the City of Joburg that the city has been unable to replace components for its mini-substations, resulting in extended outages.

Speaking at a National Press Club briefing on load-shedding security risks on Tuesday (24 January), security experts said that crime levels in South Africa have got progressively worse over the years, and the situation has only been exacerbated by the ongoing power crisis.

“Load shedding is an additional factor – not only to individual instances of crime taking place, increasing in certain areas at certain times but also other national security risks,” the panel said.

From murder to hijackings to burglaries as mentioned by Auto & General, all levels of crime in South Africa stand to rise when the lights go out.

“The increases seem to be spiking as a result of load shedding. Load shedding is a very worrying factor that powers on to a number of other factors that weaken our public security situation and the ability of the state to effectively respond to that situation.”

Insurance impact

Auto & General said that when the lights go out, so do alarm systems, gate motors and electric fencing making it easier for criminals to gain access to properties and spend longer in it.

Most insurance policies stipulate in their contracts that the house alarm must be activated at all times when the home is unoccupied, Auto & General said. “So, if your house is burgled during a power cut, then, theoretically, your theft-related cover would be moot.”

The group said that each case should be dealt with on its own merits, however.

Auto & General also warned that with extended periods of load shedding, power backups to avoid load shedding at home are also targeted.

“The prolonged electricity crisis and mumblings of stage 8 load shedding have forced many South Africans to take charge. There’s been a boom in small-scale solar installations, and the sale of generators, inverters, and modular uninterruptible power supply devices have skyrocketed,” the group said.

It noted that these backups should be insured, just like any other aspect of the home.

Solar panels and some generators are fixed to the property and, therefore, should be covered under the homeowner’s buildings insurance policy.

While the backups don’t need to be specified in the insurance policy, their value should be taken into account in the total sum of the policy cover.

For non-fixed backups, like inverters or a UPS, are covered under home contents insurance. Again, while these do not need to be specified in the cover, their value should be taken into account to make sure there is sufficient cover to replace them in the event of a theft or other incident.

If a device is not fixed – like an inverter or UPS, for example, it would be insured under home contents cover. Coetzee says that, again, these devices do not need to be specified, but the overall total sum insured should be reviewed to ensure it is sufficient to cover the replacement of the items.

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