Defence minister backs residents for stepping in during unrest
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Durban - Defence Minister Thandi Modise on Friday thanked residents of KwaZulu-Natal for standing up during the civil unrest in July and not expecting anything in return.
She said at the time of the unrest, the SANDF was in readiness to help out SADC troops in Mozambique, but quickly worked to direct its resources to help police manage the protests that broke out in KZN and parts of Gauteng.
Modise was testifying before the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Friday as part of its inquiry into the causes and effects of the unrest, which claimed more than 350 lives.
She said budget cuts which the SANDF had faced over the last decade had rendered them incapable of handling multiple situations at once.
Despite premier Sihle Zikalala, who testified earlier in the day, admitting that the province has a long history of violence, Modise said South Africa would have never foreseen the situation that unfolded in July.
Modise stepped into her role as defence minister on August 17, and was previously the speaker of the National Assembly. She said when she assumed her role, SANDF forces were already on the ground in KZN and Gauteng.
The commission’s investigator Advocate Lloyd Lotz asked Modise what her response was to allegations that members of the community assisted the SANDF with logistics and in some cases refreshments, Modise said: “When the call to deploy internal support of the police came, your defence force commanders had to step back and start rationalising and changing their plans. So it is quite possible that you would have an issue with vehicles and that kind of thing.
“Looking at what was happening, would it have been wrong for South Africans to stand up and to say the police and the military are in defence of our liberty, in defence of our economy, they need water, yes here is water and transport. I would say the citizens who could jump in, did.
“As the situation was developing, both in Gauteng and Natal, you have to get into the situation of the military and the police that they would be on guard to defend all their assets throughout the country. Therefore the SANDF may have been on alert to deploy throughout the country. I would say thank you to the community of Natal for stepping in and thank you for not expecting us to be giving you anything back,” Modise said.