South African businesses struggle amid COVID insurance claims

Abandoned and covered with litter, an impala meanders through Wynand du Toit's safari camp in South Africa's Pilanesberg National Park .

Coronavirus restrictions have left his business at the mercy of nature, and its survival in the hands of an insurer who has rejected his claim.

Facing billions of dollars in losses, insurers globally have declined to honour COVID-19 claims on business interruption policies, provoking pressure from regulators, mounting reputational damage and a wave of lawsuits from outraged customers.

The interim relief payment du Toit received from his insurer amounted to only 11% of his claim for over $170,000 -- and was spent, on amongst other things- on overdue wages and debts, in a matter of hours.

"Make no mistake as I am grateful for the pandemic, it takes a little stress off me and a few of the other guys that I owed money to but I'm in a position that if I had that payment or that cover paid out in March I wouldn't have had this issue where I am now."

Insurers say their policies were not designed to cover the unprecedented fallout of the pandemic, and honouring claims in full could destabalise the industry.

Du Toit's company and it's 19 staff members, was thrown a lifeline when South Africa opened provincial borders for all travel on Tuesday.

But with many debts still to pay and a continual ban on international travel, it is going to be tough to stay afloat without a full payout.

Causing anxiety for workers like camp site host Thomas Mthisi.

"If ever I lose this job, I won't be able to do a lot of things like I won't be able to pay for my you know, like school finances and then as well as helping at home as well."

Du Toit's insurer, Santam, declined to comment.