Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has requested the deployment of an additional 25,000 defense personnel to restore order in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng amid ongoing violence, looting, and the destruction of property in those provinces following the arrest of the former president, Jacob Zuma.
The minister reportedly told parliament on Wednesday that she is seeking approval from the National Security Council and president Cyril Ramaphosa.
In a virtual address to Parliament’s defence committee, Mapisa-Nqakula said that the president was not satisfied with the initial deployment of 2,500 soldiers, News24 reported.
A proposal for 10,000 soldiers was made during an earlier meeting between the president and party leaders represented in the National Assembly, it said.
A further deployment of members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to areas affected by the ongoing violent attacks in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal was being considered, president Ramaphosa told political party leaders.
Parties represented at the meeting included the African National Congress, Democratic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party, United Democratic Movement, Freedom Front Plus, Congress of the People, African Christian Democratic Party, the Good Party, Al-Jamah, the African Transformation Movement, National Freedom Party and the Pan Africanist Congress.
During the meeting, the president said the government is intensifying its efforts and working in partnership with civil society in an effort to stem public violence affecting various parts of the country.
Political leaders called for greater coordination among the police, the national defence force, intelligence agencies, private security services and community-based safety structures.
Bloomberg reported that the riots appeared to be easing following the initial deployment of additional soldiers to help the police restore stability, citing the government.
“We are seeing less incidence of violence and looting reported,” acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told reporters in Pretoria, the capital, on Wednesday. “Currently 5,000 members of the South African National Defence Force are deployed on the ground” and more than 1,700 people have been arrested, she said.
Protests erupted on 10 July after Zuma was incarcerated for defying a court order to testify before a graft inquiry. At least 72 people have been killed, making the uprising the deadliest since apartheid ended in 1994, Bloomberg said.
Hundreds of businesses have been ransacked over the course of the week, while telecommunications towers and other infrastructure have been destroyed, with transport networks and a programme to vaccinate people against the coronavirus disrupted, it noted.
Business Leadership South Africa chief executive officer, Busi Mavuso told Bloomberg that more than 200 malls were targeted, over 800 stores were looted and 100 were completely burnt, by Wednesday.
Ntshavheni urged people not to resort to panic buying because there was enough food for everyone, and said the security agencies will escort vehicles carrying goods from KwaZulu-Natal’s Durban port, the country’s largest, to destinations inland to safeguard supply chains. She described the violence as “economic sabotage.”
“We are not at liberty to announce who are behind it,” she said. “If we do so we will jeopardize the investigation and possible prosecution of people.”
Bloomberg said that while the government has shied away from declaring a state of emergency, Ntshavheni said it could review its stance depending on how the situation evolves.