Riots and looting: These types of messages can land you with a fine or up to 15 years in jail

19 July 2021 - 11:05 By unathi nkanjeni
Sharing a message that incites damage to property or violence could land you with a fine or jail time of up to 15 years. Stock photo.
Sharing a message that incites damage to property or violence could land you with a fine or jail time of up to 15 years. Stock photo.
Image: Brent Lewin

Sharing a message that incites damage to property or violence could land you with a fine or up to 15 years in jail. 

This is according to the Cybercrimes Act signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa. 

The act was signed last month and has once again been thrust into the spotlight, after the arrests of three alleged instigators of the violent unrest and looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. 

Two of the alleged instigators are expected on Monday to appear before the Randfontein and Westonaria courts respectively.

The suspects were arrested on Thursday and Friday on allegations of “creating and circulating inflammatory messages with the potential of inciting violence”.

Among other things, the act criminalises the distribution of “harmful” data messages on social media apps. 

Messages that could now land the offender with a fine or even see them serve jail time include:

  • those that incite violence or damage to property;
  • any message that threatens people with violence or damage to property; and
  • messages that contain intimate images sent without the subject’s consent.

Any person who violates the act is liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 15 years, or both.

The act states that messages threatening destruction to an individual’s person or property are criminal offences.

“Any person who discloses, by means of an electronic communications service, a data message to a person, group of persons or the general public with the intention to incite any damage to property or violence against, a person or a group of persons, is guilty of an offence,” the act specifies. 

“Any person who unlawfully and intentionally aids, abets, induces, incites, instigates, instructs, commands or procures another person, to commit an offence is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to the punishment to which a person convicted of actually committing that offence would be liable.”

Circulating inflammatory messages

On Sunday, spokesperson for the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) Col Brenda Muridili reiterated the call for people to refrain from inciting violence by creating and circulating inflammatory messages that seek to elevate levels of tension, confusion and fear among communities. 

“These messages instil fear in our communities and undermine the authority of the state,” said Muridili. 


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