The IT industry needs to pool resources to ensure all players are helped though the current crisis, IT-Online editor Kathy Gibson reports.

Various distributors are already collaborating to help secure their premises, and now Tarsus Technologies’ Gary Pickford has made a call for unity, and to extend support to distributors and retail partners adversely affected by continuing riots and looting, particularly in the Durban area.

At least three distributors’ Durban premises were ransacked this week, and one of them burnt down, while two logistics suppliers also suffered major damage at their facilities.

Mustek CEO Hein Engelbrecht points out that the actions of rioters and looters over the last week have left Durban’s stocks low. Although he says Mustek would be able to supply its Durban customers from stock in the Midrand warehouse once it’s safe to transport goods again.

“There may be additional costs and delays, but we will still be able to keep up services and supplies to customers in those areas.”

The bigger concern, he says, is that stock that’s sitting in Durban harbour that isn’t getting to customers because the port is locked down, and highways out of Durban are currently out of commission.

Two of the logistics suppliers working out of Durban have also been victims of rioting, Pickford points out, which could lead to additional logistics challenges. And a number of vendors have also suffered losses from looting.

“As an industry we need to work out how to come together to help the companies that have been impacted,” says Pickford. “At least two distributors have been badly affected, so how can we assist them?”

A number of retailers have also been badly impacted, he adds, with their warehouses and distribution centres ransacked.

Pickford is calling for ideas from industry players to help staunch job losses that will inevitably result, and to assist affected organisations get their businesses operational as quickly as possible.

Axiz CEO Craig Brunsden point out that most of the country’s distributors are already co-operating with one another to secure their premises, sharing information and pooling security resources where possible. Axiz hasn’t been directly affected by the Durban riots, as its main warehouse is located in Midrand, with just a sales office in Durban.

Brunsden is anticipating short-term impacts due mainly to transport and logistics, but is confident the long-term outlook will be more positive.

The ongoing stock shortages have, ironically, helped to mitigate the current crisis, he adds, as there have been fewer bulk hardware supplies coming through anyway. The stock currently stuck in Durban is largely going to fulfil committed orders, says Brunsden.

“Fortunately none of our offices have been affected, and most of our staff members were already working from home.”

Syntech, with warehouses in Cape Town and Johannesburg, has also remained relative unscathed by the riots, although stock in Durban port has been delayed and could be in danger.

“The containers in Durban port are obviously not moving,” says Syntech CEO Craig Nowitz.

He believes the more immediate problem could be the petrol supply and availability of trucks once goods are able to move again.

In the medium-term he expects the industry to experience shortages as a result of stock looted from at least three distributors and vendors including Samsung and LG.

Syntech is in the fortunate position of being able to receive stock in its Cape Town facility, he adds.

It’s not just warehouses that have been targeted in the ongoing riots: ICASA reports that more than 100 network towers have also been destroyed, placing the country’s communications infrastructure in danger.

  • This is a developing story and is being updated as new details come to light. Follow IT-Online here.
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