Ramaphosa deploys army to fight looting and restore order in South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the deployment of the South African National Defence Force and several security interventions to clamp down on widespread looting and vandalism in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

In an address to the nation on Monday night, Ramaphosa named some of the victims whose lives were claimed by the violence over the past few days, and pointed out that many others were now counting the costs associated with the destruction of their properties and businesses.

“Over the past few days there have been acts of public violence rarely seen in the history of our democracy,” Ramaphosa stated.

“At the beginning of this unrest, there may have been some people who sought to agitate for violence and disorder along ethnic lines. We know that the majority of our people have out of principle refused to be mobilised along these ethnic lines.”

“However, what we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft.”

Ramaphosa warned that the country could soon face a huge risk of food insecurity and medication insecurity.

“Although these may be opportunistic acts of looting driven by hardship and poverty, the poor and marginalised bear the ultimate brunt of the destruction currently underway,” Ramaphosa stated.

“Our vaccination programme has been severely disrupted just as it is gaining momentum,” Ramaphosa said.

“There is a danger that these events will lead to an even greater surge in infections, putting many more lives at risk and placing a greater burden on our health facilities and personnel.”

“These disruptions will cost lives by cutting off the supply chains that sustain our food, health and production systems,” he added.

The president said it was critical to restore calm and stability to all parts of the country without delay, and outlined the government’s plan for achieving this.

“We are, therefore, mobilising all available resources and capabilities to restore order,” Ramaphosa stated.

“As the Commander-in-Chief of the South African Defence Force, I have today authorised the deployment of Defence Force personnel in support of the operations of the South African Police Service.”

“The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure — known as Natjoints — has intensified deployments in all the affected areas in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng,” Ramaphosa said.

“The South African Police Service is putting measures in place to call up operational members from leave and rest-days to increase the presence of law enforcement personnel on the ground.”

“The Natjoints is receiving support from the Intelligence Coordinating Committee, comprising of SAPS Crime Intelligence, Defence Intelligence and State Security.”

“In addition to greater visibility and an intelligence-driven presence in potential hotspots, we will be prioritising the prosecution of suspects alleged to be involved in this violence,” Ramaphosa added.

Ramaphosa said the National Security Council will also be meeting twice a day to coordinate all measures necessary to restore stability.

SA Army

The deployment of the military comes as stores across Durban, Pietermaritzburg, and other areas in KwaZulu-Natal were hit by large scale looting following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma last week.

Several businesses and shopping centres in Gauteng, including Alexandra, Hillbrow, Jeppestown, and Vosloorus, were also targeted.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison after being found in contempt by the Constitutional Court for failing to testify before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

Zuma’s allies called on people to shut down the country. Shortly thereafter, protesters started blocking various major roads in Zuma’s home province.

This quickly escalated to cars being pelted with rocks and numerous trucks being set alight.

Over the weekend and into Monday, residents plundered stores for groceries, electronics, liquor and other general goods, and set fire to malls and businesses.

More than 200 people had been arrested by 8:30 on Monday morning. By Monday evening, this had climbed to nearly 500 arrests.

Ramaphosa said 166 suspects have been arrested in KwaZulu-Natal, while 323 suspects were arrested in Gauteng.

Private security companies, business owners, and community members have also started to fight back against the looters in certain areas in KwaZulu-Natal.

Now read: Vodacom and MTN forced to close stores due to looting and violence

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Ramaphosa deploys army to fight looting and restore order in South Africa