South Africa

South Africa's Ramaphosa says looters will 'face full might of the law'

The township of Alexandra in Johannesburg was particularly affected by violence sparked by Jacob Zuma supporters on 12 July 2021.
The township of Alexandra in Johannesburg was particularly affected by violence sparked by Jacob Zuma supporters on 12 July 2021. AP - Yeshiel Panchia

A further 22 people have died during unrest raging in South Africa, a provincial official said on Tuesday, taking the national death toll from days of violence to 32. The toll in KwaZulu-Natal province now stands at 26, premier Sihle Zikalala told a news conference on Tuesday, a day after officials confirmed six deaths in Gauteng province.

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"These were people killed during stampedes as protesters ran riot," he said, without specifying which parts of the province.

The violence continued after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 30 minute speech to South Africans last night. The address was made against the backdrop of the continued looting of a shopping mall in Durban. He says he was speaking with an heavy heart having observed acts of violence rarely seen in the nation’s history 

“There has been property vandalized and destroyed, shops looted, people threatened and intimidated,” he says 

“Workers are scared they may not be able to return to their jobs. People have died. Families are in deep mourning. 

“We have seen public violence,  destruction of property and looting of a kind rarely seen in our democracy.” 

Ramaphosa says there have been 166 arrests in Kwazulu/Natal and 320 in Gauteng. 

“Many have sought to agitate along ethnic lines. They have used the chaos as a cover for looting   and theft,” he says.

“No grievance can justify this.” 

"South Africans have historically fought for and laid down their lives for free expression and for the protection of the poor and vulnerable.

“They have fought for a society to develop the interests of all the people of South Africa."

'This is not us'

"Nothing can justify the .poor and marginalized bearing the brunt of destruction," he said. 

“We cannot tolerate a situation where the sick cannot get medication, there is no food on the shelves and health workers cannot do their jobs.

“We face food and education insecurity and a disruption of our vaccination programme in the middle of a pandemic.  This is not who we are. This is not us. 

“This is why I have mobilized all available resources to restore order. 

“As commander in chief of the national defence force I have authorized defence personnel to support the police service in restoring order. 

“We will will take action to protect the people against violence, theft and looting. 

“We will arrest and prosecute those who perpetrate these and ensure they face the full might of the law.” 

Ramaphosa says he’ll meet with community leaders and leaders of political parties to benefit from their wisdom and restore stability in South Africa.

What began as “an expression of righteous anger” at the jailing of ex-President Jacob Zuma last Wednesday has become an anarchic orgy of looting. 

Police are reduced to playing spectators to the thousands of looters so troops have been deployed on the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial capital, and the KwaZulu/Natal cities of Durban and Pietermartizburg. 

They too have not stopped the lawlessness. 

 Retail operations paralyzed  

The nation’s commercial operation which centre largely on giant shopping malls is paralyzed. 

Deliveries have stopped as trucks have been set alight and used to block inter-city highways. 

Four dozen of the giant vehicles have been destroyed in this way since last Thursday. 

The malls closed early in the afternoon as the looters stormed in. 

Television stations filmed the giant Jabulani Mall in Soweto and the prestigious Maponya Mall being overrun as looters emerged carrying expensive electronic goods 

Viewers watched as looters moved previously stolen goods from the boots of their vehicles to  make room for the giant television screens. 

Some of the stores in both Gauteng and KwaZylu/Natal were torched after being looted. 

A social media wag noted that Ramaphosa was guaranteed a good audience when  he spoke  “because everyone now has a television.” 

Ramaphosa, who has condemned what he calls “ethnic mobilization” issued a statement hours before his broadcast warning people of the consequences of being caught in possession of looted goods. 

Under-equipped police, who say they have run out of teargas and other equipment to enforce public order, maintain they were fired on by looters. 

Fears of vigilantism 

Some business owners have armed themselves to protect their property giving rise to fears of vigilantism. Six deaths of looters have been reported. 

The anarchy occurred as Zuma sought to have the Constitutional Court rescind its ruling late last month to sentencing him to 15 months imprisonment for contempt of court. Zuma failed to obey a court order to appear before a commission into state corruption presided over by deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. 

The full bench of the apex court has reserved judgment in the matter 

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