Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Pretoria: Over 757 people have over the past five days been arrested for the wanton destruction and looting of businesses and properties.

Of these, 304 were arrested in KwaZulu-Natal while 453 were nabbed in Gauteng.

This was on Tuesday revealed by Ministers in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster during a press briefing amid violence in the two provinces.

Ministers in the cluster have over the past two days met to discuss the reports received from the Joint Operations Committee (JOCOM) of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and State Security.

These reports included critical intelligence information from the State Security Agency (SSA), South African Police Crime and Defence Intelligence. The intelligence information has provided timeous, critical and sometimes unique analysis information to give early warning signs of potential risks and dangers.

“The law enforcement officers have used this intelligence information in responding with speed to the issues on the ground and attending to areas which have been identified as potential hotpot areas,” said Police Minister Bheki Cele, speaking on behalf of the cluster.

He said Ministers were satisfied with the reports they had received and were confident that law enforcement agencies were able to do their job effectively.

He said of grave concern was the loss of lives that has accompanied the incidents of violence and destruction to property. Ten people have been killed in the two provinces.

“In all our operations, we still have the responsibility to save lives. The current situation on the ground is under strong surveillance and we will ensure that 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 to increase deployment on the ground,” he said.

The cluster has called for an immediate end to this violence, looting and the disregard of the law and call for an immediate return to peace and stability.

The Ministers said they were encouraged and heartened by the outpouring of messages from South Africans saying their shops, malls, taxis, trucks and other transport infrastructure will not be destroyed in their name.

“These messages of support echo the attitude of our country that this infrastructure is the life-blood 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.”

Cele said South Africa was a democratic state governed by the Constitution.

While South Africa’s Constitution guarantees the right of every person to protest, to organise, and to engage in free expression and free association, this should not infringe on the rights of others who may not want to protest.

“No amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people, gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalise and do as they please and break the law.

“We call on the communities to exercise restraint in dealing with the situation and above all ensure that innocent civilians are not harmed,” he said.

The JCPS further urged all communities and groups to reject any call for violence and making this country ungovernable.

Social media violence instigators warned

Government has issued a stern warning to those inciting violence and disregard of the law with inflammatory messages on social media.

This warning was on Tuesday relayed by Ministers in the Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security (JCPS) cluster during a media briefing amid a flurry of public violence flare-ups in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Chaotic scenes have been playing out in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, leaving many businesses gutted and looted by protesters, who are reportedly calling for the release of former President Jacob Zuma from jail.

The Cybersecurity Act states that 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”.

In a statement, the Ministers said those who engage in such acts will be liable for a criminal offence and could 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,” they said in the statement read by Police Minister Bheki Cele.

Meanwhile, Cele said they are engaging different platforms to track and trace the origins of “inflammatory” posts and messages inciting violence. Cele requested that these be taken down immediately.

“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,” he said.

The Minister said the involvement of other stakeholders was also critical in the fight against lawlessness.

In this regard, the cluster had already engaged the leadership of private security companies to increase 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,” the Ministers said.

They reiterated President Cyril Ramaphosa’s message on Monday night in which he said: “We are building up, not shutting down. We will not be deterred, as South Africans, from the task ahead.”

The Ministers said if the acts of violence continued unabated, the country ran the risk of running out of basic food, a development that would be disastrous for the country.