Logistics and Supply Chain Management when unrest hits South Africa
The recent unrest in South Africa and particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng demonstrates how fragile the local, national and international supply chain and pipelines are. After experiencing the continued onslaught of COVID-19, the latest and almost unabated riots, pillage and attacks on people and property have created even greater impacts on general life in South Africa as well as critical shortages of food, medication, vaccines, fuel and other vitals in many suburbs in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng. It goes without saying that political undercurrents can cause disruptions in sourcing, manufacturing and transportation in a supply chain, denying people of the fulfilment of much-needed physiological and security needs as per Maslow’s famous Hierarchy.
Supply chain management’s (SCM) solid foundation lies in logistics and the 13 activities pertaining thereto. Its main objectives are to get the right product, to the right place, to the right customer, in the right quantities, at the right price, in the right condition and very importantly the right time. When unexpected riots and mayhem occur, every single right is negatively affected because need-satisfying products and services cannot reach customers who have become deprived of possession utility, even though they have the means to pay for the offerings.
The thought of potential deprivation as a result of such havoc has the unpleasant consequence of herd behaviour, leading to Maslow’s hierarchy becoming almost meaningless as people procure not what they need but rather what they want. The resultant chaotic ‘feeding-frenzy’ behaviour plays into the hands of the perpetrators of the unrest as what little is left for the community to buy after the wake of the unmasked marauders’ looting, is selfishly purchased by inconsiderate consumers, without giving any thought to the elderly, the poor and needy, the infirmed and the shoppers behind them.
As mentioned above, because of the violent upheaval, the right products are not reaching desperate consumers and businesses resulting in even basic consumables such as bread, vegetables, milk, eggs and so on being deprived because of shortages at retail level and the hi-jacking of trucks trying their best to deliver their cargos.
The right places sadly have been burned down and destroyed and the content stolen not by the starving but by vandals who blindly obey those who are hungry for power. The right customers (in this case consumers and business owners) have been denied possession utility as the offerings are not being delivered to their retailers or even their homes (as a result of online buying), with the result that people are literally starving as the freebooters purposely and violently plunder the stores and transport trucks.
Because of the illegal actions of these uncaring ransackers, there is a dire dearth of food, mediation, fuel and essential services, resulting in the right quantities not being forthcoming, thereby providing selfish opportunists scope to charge what they will (up to R70 for a loaf of bread and R80 for a litre of petrol) … making a joke of getting offerings to customers at the right price. What does come through, when it does, is oftentimes of poor quality, especially perishable products such as fresh vegetables and fruit (not the right condition), which usually arrive late (if one is lucky), resulting in the products not arriving when customers need and want them.
Although attempting to pen this comment is like shooting at a moving target, one thing is certain and that is the ramifications of this chaos, both social and financial, will be felt for years to come.
From a Supply Chain Management perspective, the once solid supply pipeline has become permanently fractured as offshore and onshore organisations ponder whether to operate under this fragile blanket of uncertainty, move offshore to a safer and more secure environment or even conduct business with South Africa at all. Either way, all South Africans will bear the brunt of escalating prices, longer and more uncertain lead times, input shortages and above all reputational damage that will take eons to heal.