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Bheki Cele warns looters: You're under surveillance and cops will pounce

13 July 2021 - 15:35 By TimesLIVE
Police minister Bheki Cele says 757 people have been arrested during the looting. File image.
Police minister Bheki Cele says 757 people have been arrested during the looting. File image.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

IN FULL: Speaking notes for police minister Bheki Cele during Tuesday’s justice cluster briefing

Over the past two days the ministers from the justice, crime prevention and security (JCPS) cluster met to discuss reports received from the joint operations committee (Jocom) of the police sservice and state security which reflect on the incidents of violence and looting in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The reports have also presented to the ministers critical intelligence information from the State Security Agency (SSA) and SA Police Crime and Defence Intelligence. The intelligence information has provided timeous, critical and sometimes unique analysis to give early warning signs of potential risks and dangers.

Law enforcement officers have used this intelligence information to respond with speed to issues on the ground and attend to areas identified as potential hotspots.

As ministers we are satisfied with all the reports we have received and are confident our law enforcement agencies are able to do their job effectively.

In all our operations, we still have the responsibility to save lives.

The situation on the ground is under strong surveillance and we will ensure it does not deteriorate any further. We cannot allow anyone to make a mockery of our democratic state and we have instructed the law enforcement agencies to double their efforts the stop the violence and increase deployment on the ground.

As ministers of this cluster we add our voices to that of our president and the many law-abiding and peace-loving South Africans who have strongly condemned the lawlessness, violence and destruction that is happening in certain areas in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng as reported in the media.

We call for an immediate end to this violence, looting and disregard for the law and call for an immediate return to peace and stability.

As ministers, we are encouraged and heartened by the outpouring of messages on social media platforms by South Africans from all communities and walks of life who are saying the wanton destruction of property such as shops, malls, taxis, trucks and other transport infrastructure will not be in their name.

These messages of support echo the attitude of our country that this infrastructure is the lifeblood of our society and economy. Without these we cannot hope to grow our economy, ensure we all have food and fuel and can go about our daily lives toward the goal of prosperity for all.

SA is a democratic state governed by the constitution. As President Cyril Ramaphosa stated in his address to the nation last night, “our constitution guarantees the right of every person to protest, to organise, and to engage in free expression and free association”. However, this right of engaging in peaceful protest comes with the responsibility of not infringing upon the rights of others who may not want to protest.

No amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances among our people gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalise, do as they please and break the law. We call on communities to exercise restraint in dealing with the situation, and above all ensure innocent civilians are not harmed.

We urge all communities and groups to reject any call for violence and making this country ungovernable.
Police minister Bheki Cele

We further urge all communities and groups to reject any call for violence and making this country ungovernable. We call upon anyone who has reliable information to report any acts of violence and intimidation to the police on the toll-free line 08600-10111.

We welcome the announcement by President Ramaphosa on July 12 to authorise the deployment of SA National Defence Force personnel to supplement the capacity of the police service in protecting infrastructure and other operations. We also welcome the recall from leave and rest days of police members to beef up policing work on the ground.

Our latest reports indicate 757 people have been arrested. In KwaZulu-Natal 304 have been arrested and in Gauteng 453 were arrested.

Of concern is the loss of lives that has accompanied violence and destruction of property.

The total number of fatalities reported is 10, with four in KZN and six in GP. [The minister was speaking prior to news of 10 deaths during a stampede in Soweto].

Furthermore, four police officers were injured while responding to violent protests and are recovering well.

We caution South Africans to note the country is facing the Covid-19 pandemic and we are in the third wave fuelled by the Delta variant. Law enforcement agencies are also going to ensure mass adherence to the adjusted alert level 4 lockdown regulations that have been extended by another two weeks.

The greatest risk during the mass protests in parts of the country is the rapid spread of the pandemic, causing a rapid rise in infections and affecting our ability as government and our health system to respond to this.

Our health system is already under strain and current developments put the lives of more South Africans at risk should infections rise.

Disaster Management Act enforcement operations will continue with heightened visibility to ensure our communities:

  • Observe the curfew in place from 9pm to 4am.
  • Do not partake in any gatherings, whether indoors or outdoors.
  • Wear a mask at all times when in public spaces.
  • Adhere to social distancing and health protocols at all times, particularly when attending a funeral with 50 mourners or fewer, which is the only gathering not prohibited during the level 4 lockdown.

South Africans are reminded that washing or sanitising hands still remains our best arsenal against the coronavirus.

Our communities are also reminded that:

  • All social, political, religious and other gatherings remain prohibited.
  • Night vigils, after-funeral gatherings and “after-tears” gatherings are not allowed.
  • While you may still go to beaches and parks, there cannot be any gatherings in those public spaces.
  • The transportation and sale of alcohol both for on-site and off-site consumption is prohibited.
  • There will be no travelling into and out of Gauteng during the adjusted level 4 lockdown unless it is business-related.

Anyone found contravening the regulations will be processed accordingly in terms of the law.


We also issue a stern warning to those circulating inflammatory messages on social media platforms which are aimed at inciting violence and disregard of the law.

The Cybersecurity Act states any person who “unlawfully makes available, broadcasts or distributes by means of a computer system a data message to a specific person, group of persons or the general public with the intention to incite violence, or call people to be involved in the destruction of any property belonging to people, is guilty of an offence”.

Those who engage in such acts will be liable for criminal offence and can receive a fine or be sentenced to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years.

As the cluster we are monitoring all social media platforms and we are tracking those who are sharing false information and calling for civil disobedience.

We are engaging the different platforms to track and trace the origins of inflammatory posts and messages inciting violence and have requested these be taken down with immediate effect.

Community involvement

While the intervention of some communities to actively stop the mass lootings has been commended, we encourage communities not to take the law into their own hands and continue to work with the police.

The involvement of other stakeholders is also critical in the fight against lawlessness and in this regard we have already engaged the leadership of private security companies in an effort to increase better working relations with the police.

As ministers in the cluster we have the responsibility to assert the authority of the state and to safeguard our territorial integrity and sovereignty of the republic.

In conclusion, we reiterate the words of President Ramaphosa last night when he said: “We are building up, not shutting down. We will not be deterred, as South Africans, from the task ahead.”

If these acts of violence continue unabated, we run the risk of running out of basic food stuffs and that would be disastrous for the country.

We remind all South Africans to mask up, wash up and keep your distance as we sustain our fight against this pandemic.

Finally, register and vaccinate to save SA.