Ramaphosa warns of food and medication insecurity 'in a few weeks' if violence continues

12 July 2021 - 21:29

If the violent looting and destruction seen in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in recent days doesn't swiftly come to an end, food and medicine shortages will soon follow.

This was the dire warning from President Cyril Ramaphosa as he addressed SA on Monday night.

The president has authorised the deployment on the SA National Defence force in support of police operations in both provinces, as riots continued unabated.

Trucks have been torched on the N3 freeway between KZN and Gauteng, with the road completely closed on Monday night between Cedara and Heidelberg due to continued violence. Many businesses were unable to operate, and many stores — including food retailers — completely looted.

Police confront protesters in a supermarket in Alexandra, Johannesburg, amid widespread looting on Monday. President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday warned that the violence could result in food and medicine shortages.
Police confront protesters in a supermarket in Alexandra, Johannesburg, amid widespread looting on Monday. President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday warned that the violence could result in food and medicine shortages.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

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

Agri SA had also, just hours before Ramaphosa's address, called for a state of emergency to be declared due to the risks to the country's food security.

The victims of the violence that is unfolding now — the workers, the truck drivers, the business owners, the parents and families of those who have lost their lives — have done nothing wrong. Though these may be opportunistic acts of looting driven by hardship and poverty, the poor and marginalised bear the ultimate brunt of the destruction.

“Shops have been looted and infrastructure destroyed. This means that our sick cannot get medication from pharmacies, food does not reach supermarket shelves and health workers cannot go to work.

“We will be facing a huge risk of food insecurity and medication insecurity in a few weeks,” said Ramaphosa.

The president said that the violence had also disrupted the country's Covid-19 vaccination programme.

“These disruptions will cost lives by cutting off the supply chains that sustain our food, health and production systems.

“The path of violence, of looting and anarchy, leads only to more violence and devastation. It leads to more poverty, more unemployment, and more loss of innocent life,” he said.

Ramaphosa pleaded with the country's citizens to take a different path.

This is not who we are as a people. Time and time again, we have chosen a different path, a path of peace and democracy. We have chosen to pursue dialogue and protest rather than violence and chaos. Each of us, no matter our position or our circumstances, has an interest in maintaining and upholding the rule of law,” he said.

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