Cargo Loss in SA: Is the Ship Hitting the Fan?



Theft of cargo in the whole of Africa is an epidemic from which no business relying on the supply and demand of logistics is spared. Just in South Africa alone the damage incurred is estimated to run into several billion Rands per year. Whilst there are instances of opportunistic -, and small time theft, these acts are mostly perpetrated by criminal enterprises (syndicates) that have their tentacles spread across all arenas of business, and subsequently makes it their occupation to stay ahead of efforts invested to combat, and lessen the impact of cargo loss.

Fast moving consumables e.g. food, liquor, cigarettes, toiletries, personal care / beauty products, medicine, household cleaning materials, electronics etc. remains an attractive target because of the insatiable consumer demand thereof, and as a result the black market trade is thriving. Unlike its description the ”black market” is not obscured in darkness; it is easy to identify, and well within reach of the everyday consumer, whom through various set of circumstance and motivation support this illegal trade – a bargain buy remains irresistible after all, and ”ignorance” is as blissful as ever.

Whilst freight / logistics concerns, and large retailers foot the direct bill for associated insurance costs, security costs involved to protect and secure loads, loss of revenue etc. whom other than the consumer pays the ultimate price? This is where the dividing line between ”us and them” dissipate, and it becomes a problem that affects everyone. Whilst there are multiple risk mitigation, security solutions, and technological advances employed and available to address this issue I am of the opinion that not much emphasis is placed on working towards a holistic solution – but what would such a solution entail?

For starters as consumers we must seriously relook our ethics when it comes to purchasing products, and realise that by participating in dubious deals we are the largest contributor to this problem – it would not be overdramatic to state that your next ‘’incredible deal’’ might be dripping with blood. As a society we also need to start placing as much emphasis as we do on topics like sex education, alcohol and drug abuse, and road safety, on crime. Crime awareness and prevention should also take centre stage in grass root educational programmes and initiatives.

Affected businesses have an obligation to accentuate, and give a voice to related incidents in order to prevent it from fading into the background. Their mission should be to combat the ‘’out-of-sight-out-of-mind’’ mentality spawned by the ‘’Proudly South African Spin Doctors’’, and supported by some radio and television broadcasters, and media houses that are selective about the stories they do report on for the sake of painting a much rosier picture, than reality exhibits. There are many innovative ways to promulgate the news e.g. advertising campaigns, supporting crime awareness and prevention initiatives etc.

Everyone involved in the supply chain should actively participate in networking to ensure that related incidents do not stand in isolation. Networking also forms the foundation for the insight to -, and exchange of valuable intelligence, and pioneering solutions – seeing that everyone is equally affected why not invest in a unified effort? Depending on how effectively it is steered and administered, participation in crime prevention forums hosted by the SAPS and involving business and support services within a certain community, can be a good starting point (where these efforts are met with frustration and futility these instances ought to be escalated to provincial level to make such forums more dynamic).

Unless I have been living under a rock for the past decade I have noticed very little to no involvement from The Department of Trade and Industry in this regard; no prevalent and ongoing campaigns…? I’ll be the first to gobble down my straw hat if I am ill guided and misinformed – and for the sake of such a bold statement not going to waste; I’ll extend the same courtesy to local government e.g. Gauteng Province where cargo loss is most rive, and in the same breath beg Justice (as a collective) to formulate harsher sentencing relating to any criminal involved in hijacking, illegal possession, or illicit trade.

The eradication of corruption within law enforcement should be invigorated; as much as we have a civil, and moral obligation to take up the proverbial arms against crime, we should fight harder to rid our system of dishonourable officials’ whom solicits ‘’tshotsho (bribes)’’ in return of a blind eye, and aiding-and-abetting criminals.

It would be a magnificent success story if South Africa can turnaround this ship, and steer it in a different direction – we certainly have enough adverse exposure in this regard… But from the same weakness there are an emergent strength, in the form of industry -,and thought leaders within the retail,freight, logistics, and security industries than can lead the way.





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Johan Fourie is a 39-year old management professional, with close to two decades of working experience predominantly within the defence and security industry. During his tenure, he had an opportunity to get exposure to a wide array of industries e.g. warehouse -, hotel -, casino -, mining -, corporate -, retail -, residential -, and facility security management. Johan’s passion for the security industry is evident in his published work which, focuses around providing the consumer of security related products, and services with valuable, and thought provoking insight to further the protection of their human capital, personal security, business operation, property, and product. Johan’s ambition extends to managing a national / Sub-Saharan Africa corporate security concern, and he is open to explore an opportunity in this particular regard.