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Defence minister seemingly contradicts Ramaphosa, says there is no evidence of an insurrection

Mapisa-Nqakula said it was her view that the military was not seeing signs of a coup or insurgency, but rather a 'counter-revolution creeping in, in the form of criminality and thuggery'.

18 July 2021 - 20:50 By gill gifford
President Cyril Ramaphosa receiving a briefing on his arrival in KwaZulu-Natal at the weekend.
President Cyril Ramaphosa receiving a briefing on his arrival in KwaZulu-Natal at the weekend.
Image: PresidencyZA

Just before President Cyril Ramaphosa repeated earlier comments and told an ANC Mandela Day event that recent violence that hit SA was part of an insurrection, his defence minister seemingly contradicted him in parliament.

Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, speaking at a parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Defence on Sunday evening about the security situation in the country, said she did not have evidence to indicate the recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng “so far talks to an insurrection or a coup”.

This was in response to a question by the UDM's Bantu Holomisa, who asked exactly what situation the country was faced with. She said neither possibility - a coup or an insurrection - had come forward “with a face”.

Mapisa-Nqakula said it was her view that the military was instead seeing signs of a "counter-revolution creeping in, in the form of criminality and thuggery”.

However, this is in conflict with the information given out by Ramaphosa when he addressed the nation on Friday night. He described the unrest as a "failed insurrection" attempt.

On July 16 2021 President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the influence of sinister forces in the recent mass looting and vandalism in parts of KZN and Gauteng which brought chaos to South Africa.

On Sunday night, Ramaphosa told the ANC event: "It is clear now the events of the past week were a deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy, on our economy and our people’s livelihoods. Our young democracy and our movement are going through, at the moment, a very difficult time.

"Our survival as a constitutional democracy, committed to the rule of law, is under threat. Very serious attempts were - and continue to be - made to instigate unrest, insurrection against the government led by the governing party.

"We cannot say similar attacks will not be attempted in future, nor can we say those who seek to divide us will stop in their efforts."

In parliament, Mapisa-Nqakula said she was confident the ongoing military deployments will be enough to “overcome this whole thing”.

She was hesitant to give details of the deployments, as this would “compromise the security of our own forces”.

Residents in Phoenix, north of Durban, took up arms to protect their families and community after a spate of violence and looting gripped large parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

She reiterated there was no insurrection, only a “counter-revolution” designed “to sow seeds of division in the country”.

Also at the briefing, the SANDF's deployment figures were clarified by Maj-Gen Siphiwe Sangweni, who gave an overview of the deployment of "Operation Prosper". He said SANDF Force Structure Elements had been deployed in all provinces, with KZN and Gauteng being the priority areas.

He said the situation on the ground was “dynamic” and had escalated quickly throughout the week. Key infrastructure has to be protected, he said.

The initial plan was to deploy 2,500 personnel, which was increased to 10,000 and by Sunday night was at over 21,500 due to escalating insecurity on the ground. Of these, almost 7,000 soldiers were in Gauteng and almost 5,000 in KZN.

The latest number authorised was now 25,000 for a period “not exceeding one month”, at a cost of R616m.

He said units on standby in other provinces had not experienced any protest action and national key points were all protected. These included airports, harbours, refineries, Eskom power generation plants.

The Operation Prosper code of conduct had been gazetted last week, Sangweni said.