Ramaphosa brings all hands on deck to quell violent protests and looting

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night promised to 'restore calm and order'

12 July 2021 - 20:58 By mawande amashabalala

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday promised to unleash the full might of the state on the looters and protesters responsible for increasingly violent incidents in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in recent days.

Addressing the nation on the chaos that has erupted in the two provinces, Ramaphosa said the government had a plan to bring law and order back in charge. This included the deployment of the defence force and recalling cops from leave to increase police visibility on the streets.

All of this will be done in an intelligence-driven operation to nip these “opportunistic acts of criminality” in the bud.  

The protests broke out a day after the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court.

Mobs of looters overran the Pan Africa Mall in Alexandra, Gauteng on July 12 2021.

Ramaphosa said no “political cause” was good enough to justify the public violence, looting and destruction of property that infringes on other citizens' rights.

“This violence may indeed have its roots in the pronouncements and activities of individuals with a political purpose, and in expressions of frustration and anger. 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 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. There is no grievance, nor any political cause, that can justify the violence and destruction that we have seen in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng,” he said.

Police clear a shopping centre with stun grenades in Alexandra, Johannesburg, on Monday. Running battles between police and looters went into the night.
Police clear a shopping centre with stun grenades in Alexandra, Johannesburg, on Monday. Running battles between police and looters went into the night.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

The president vowed to “restore calm and stability without delay”.

“It is vital that we prevent any further loss of life or injury, or destruction of valuable infrastructure and property that sustains the lives of our people. It is vital that we protect property and safeguard social and economic infrastructure. We are therefore mobilising all available resources and capabilities to restore order.

“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 SA Police Service.

“The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJOINTS) has intensified deployments in all the affected areas in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The SA 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 Co-ordinating 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. The National Security Council, which I chair as commander-in-chief, will be meeting twice a day to co-ordinate all measures necessary to restore 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.”

Ramaphosa said he would also be meeting political leaders and other stakeholders to borrow from their fountain of wisdom on how best to deal with the situation.

“We are making arrangements for government leaders and public representatives as part of their responsibilities to meet leaders in various communities to promote stability. As part of our ongoing engagement with key sectors of society, I will be meeting leaders of political parties to discuss the situation,” he said.

The president said the scenes seen in the two provinces were a chilling reminder of the political violence last experienced in the early 90s, towards the first democratic elections.

But once again, he said, unity among South Africans would triumph against forces of darkness.

“The passage of time has not erased from our memories the dark days when sinister elements stoked the flames of violence in our communities to try to turn us against each other. We live with these memories still. But we also remember that as we were preparing for democratic change, we came together as a society to end the violence that was rampant in many communities,” he said.