Johannesburg (TIP): South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday he would not allow “anarchy and mayhem” to prevail, and suggested that a wave of looting and arson that has destroyed hundreds of businesses had been deliberately provoked.
Ramaphosa said his government was doing all it could to deal with the unrest that has killed more than 100 people in the past week.
The violence had severely dented investor confidence and hit South Africa’s economic recovery, he said, speaking in Ethekwini Municipality, which includes the port city Durban, one of the worst-hit areas.
“We will not allow anarchy and mayhem,” Ramaphosa said.
In a presentation to a parliamentary committee, police said that looting of malls and stores was still going on and foreign-owned shops were being hit.
Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces were still volatile, and crowds had gathered in Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces, they said. Kawzulu-Natal’s main airport, King Shaka International, was also targeted, police said.
The long-term social and economic cost of the unrest was also becoming clearer, with calls for the government to address underlying problems to head off more violence and despair.
The rioting broke out in several parts of the country following the jailing of Ramaphosa’s predecessor, Jacob Zuma, last week for his failure to appear at a corruption inquiry.
It swiftly degenerated into looting and destruction, driven by widespread anger over the poverty and inequality that persist nearly three decades after the end of white minority rule.
Ramaphosa said it was quite clear the incidents were “instigated” and “we are after these people”. He did not specify whom.
He also expressed concern about rising racial tensions in some parts of the country. Some white minority and Indian communities – who are generally better off than the Black community – had armed themselves to fight off rioters.
? The military has called up all its reservists to bolster the army and police, with a total of 25,000 troops available to go to flashpoints.
The head of the armed forces, Lieutenant General Rudzani Maphwanya, addressing soldiers in Alexandra, Johannesburg, said: “It is no longer just thuggery, this is economic sabotage… It is a threat to our people so you have to restore that freedom.
“You don’t have to lower your guns.”
The official death toll stood at 91 in KwaZulu-Natal, and 26 in Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg, making a total of 117.
COUNTING THE COST
The ransacking of stores has left food and other essentials in short supply as businesses struggled to get up and running again.
State logistics group Transnet said operations at Durban and Richards Bay ports were improving though road closures and fuel and food shortages were constraining its supply chain. Richards Bay had cleared all its shipping backlogs.
Retailer Massmart said protesters had looted 41 of its stores and two distribution centres, with four sites badly damaged by arson.
The government has characterised the violence as criminality.
But the Nelson Mandela Foundation – a legacy of the late leader of the anti-apartheid struggle and South Africa’s first Black president – said violence had been growing at “disturbing levels” in the last two decades and was now regarded as normal. (Reuters)