The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) announced that it has started with pre-deployment procedures to help law enforcement agencies deployed in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal to quell the unrest that has gripped both provinces in the last few days.
This is in line with a request for assistance received from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints), the SANDF said in a statement.
It said that the deployment will commence as soon as all processes are in place.
“The duration and number of deploying soldiers will be determined based on the assessment of the situation on the ground by the relevant law enforcement agencies,” said Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, director for defence corporate communication.
“Furthermore, it must be emphasised that the SANDF’s deployment objective is to provide safety and a safe working environment for members of the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies whilst they carry out their Constitutionally mandated law and order duties.”
The army’s deployment comes as riots and looting grip parts of Johannesburg and the greater Durban area.
Videos posted online show clashes between residents and looters, trucks set alight on the N3 highway, and the vandalism and destruction of property in both major metropolitan areas.
Police have conducted mass arrests of looters in the places where they are deployed, but the forces are spread thin and rioters have run amok in areas where there is no police presence.
While the outbreak of violence began as a protest in response to the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma for being in contempt of court, it has devolved into mobs of people breaking into shops, warehouses, and malls.
Looters then help themselves to goods and leave a trail of destruction in their wake.
Video of a mall in Pietermaritzburg that was set alight was circulating on social media, along with many other images showing people transporting stolen electronics on trolleys.
Brookside Mall, a fairly new shopping complex, in Pietermaritzburg has gone up in flames this morning. The mall is situated alongside the N3 freeway as it passes through PMB. The city, which is situated in a valley, is being engulfed by smoke. @CyrilRamaphosa DO SOMETHING!!!😭💔 pic.twitter.com/DVWGesBVwY
— Rianté Padayachee (@RianteP) July 12, 2021
Businesses such as Dis-Chem and First National Bank have informed clients that their stores and branches have been temporarily closed.
“As a precautionary measure, we have temporarily closed all branches in KwaZulu-Natal and a small number of branches in Gauteng,” FNB announced.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused. The safety of both our employees & customers is our utmost priority. We encourage customers to use our digital channels.”
Dis-Chem said that all of its stores in KwaZulu-Natal will be closed due. This includes its vaccination and Covid-19 testing stations.
“We apologise for the inconvenience caused,” Dis-Chem said.
— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) July 12, 2021