Radio stations go down as looters strike

Radio stations went silent, and networks experienced outages in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal after rioters vandalised communications facilities and network infrastructure.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said the ongoing acts of violence, looting, and arson had disrupted various communication services.

The affected radio stations, whose equipment has been damaged or looted, include Alex FM, Ntokozo FM, Mams FM, and Westside FM.

ICASA has also received reports of vandalism of communications infrastructure, including 113 network towers.

“Such destruction of broadcasting infrastructure and facilities represents a direct attack on the constitutional right of individuals to access news and information,” ICASA said.

The regulator called on communities to assist in guarding and protecting this critical communications infrastructure.

“Any disruption of communication services could prove disastrous and result in increased mortality as emergency calls may be directly impacted,” said ICASA chairperson Keabetswe Modimoeng.

ICASA has written to the National Joints Operations and Intelligence Services (NatJoints) to prioritise the safeguarding and protection of critical telecommunications infrastructure.

The message from ICASA came amidst deadly protests that erupted in South Africa following former President Jacob Zuma’s jailing.

The riots showed no signs of letting up, even as the authorities pledged to clamp down on the violence, and the army was deployed to help the police keep it in check.

Hundreds of stores in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, which account for about half the nation’s economic output, were looted and major highways have been blocked.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala put the death toll at 26 in his province alone and his Gauteng counterpart David Makhura said there’d been 19 fatalities in his jurisdiction, including 10 that occurred during a stampede.

Rioting continued on Tuesday in several Gauteng townships, including Alexandra, Diepsloot, Vosloorus and Mamelodi, although calm prevailed in Johannesburg’s city center, which bore the brunt of the violence on Monday.

Broadcaster eNCA screened live pictures of a mob looting a warehouse complex near the eastern port city of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, and people lining up in vehicles to ferry away appliances they’d stolen.

The government halted the issuing of coronavirus vaccines throughout KwaZulu-Natal and in parts of Gauteng, because it didn’t want to place staff or recipients at risk, said Nicholas Crisp, a consultant to the health department who is helping oversee the inoculation program.

Stores were also targeted in East London in the Eastern Cape, although demonstrations there weren’t as bad as in other areas, the provincial government’s acting spokesman Mxolisi Spondo said by phone.

Looting also occurred in one town in the northeastern Mpumalanga province. No incidents were reported in the other five provinces, but authorities there remained on high alert.

Intokozo FM office photos

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Radio stations go down as looters strike