President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that government will deploy the South African Defence Force and bolster security measures to end violent riots and looting in the country.
In a national address on Monday evening (12 July), Ramaphosa said that the past weekend has seen acts of public violence rarely seen in the history of South Africa’s democracy.
Property has been destroyed, shops have been looted, citizens threatened, and people have died, he said.
The president said that while the violence initially started in KZN, it has since spread to Gauteng. A total of 166 suspects have been arrested in KZN and 323 suspects have been arrested in Gauteng.
Despite these arrests, Ramaphosa said that this violence has continued in these areas and threatens to spill over to provinces.
“While these actions may have originated from political or ethnic agitating, this has since become opportunistic acts of criminality as a cover for looting and theft,” he said.
He added that the country faces food and medical insecurity because of these acts, while the country’s Covid-19 vaccination efforts have been disrupted.
To put a stop to the rampant looting and rioting, the president said that new security measures will be introduced, including:
- Ramaphosa has authorised the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel in support of the operations of the South African Police Service (SAPS).
- The SAPS 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, the government will prioritise the prosecution of suspects alleged to be involved in this violence.
- The National Security Council, chaired by Ramaphosa, will be meeting twice a day to coordinate all measures necessary to restore stability.
- The government will work with the business sector to ensure the safety of drivers, cashiers, patients and customers. They will also share information and resources to ensure the restoration of key supply chains.
- Arrangements are being made for government leaders and public representatives as part of their responsibilities to meet with leaders in various communities to promote stability.
“Let me be clear: we will take action to protect every person in this country against the threat of violence, intimidation, theft and looting. We will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute those who perpetrate these actions and will ensure that they face the full might of our law.
“We will restore calm and order so that we can get on with the task of rebuilding this country and creating a better life for its people.”
The address comes a day after Ramaposa announced an extension of South Africa’s adjusted level 4 lockdown by 14 days.
“Our health system countrywide remains under pressure. By next week, daily hospital admissions across the country are likely to reach the levels observed during the peak of the first two waves.
“Covid-19 related deaths in hospitals are also increasing, and have surpassed those observed at the peak of the first wave,” the president said.
While Gauteng is still the epicentre of these infections, Ramaposa said that cases are now surging in other provinces with the healthcare sector increasingly under strain. Infections are rapidly increasing in the Western Cape, Limpopo, North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, he said.
As a result, the president said that Cabinet after consultation with the provinces has decided to maintain the country at adjusted alert level 4 for an additional two weeks.
The following restrictions will remain in place:
- The evening curfew remains in place from 21h00 – 04h00, and only those with permission to do so may leave their homes during this time;
- All social, religious, and political gatherings remain prohibited;
- Schools will remain closed until 26 July;
- The sale of alcohol remains prohibited.
However, Ramaphosa said that some restrictions will be eased for some businesses. These include:
- Restaurants and eateries will be able to operate as normal while observing strict protocols – Such establishments may not accommodate more than 50 people at a time or, for smaller venues, more than 50% of their normal capacity;
- Certain other venues such as gyms and fitness centres may also reopen;
- Agricultural activities such as livestock auctions will be permitted.