SA on tenterhooks amid fears of another wave of unrest and possible looting
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Durban - South Africa is on tenterhooks amid fears that another wave of unrest and possible looting is on the cards when proponents of the mooted national shutdown push ahead with their plan.
Mostly on edge is KwaZulu-Natal, the province where, last month, violence left a trail destruction and more than 300 people dead, and Gauteng where the violence then spread to.
Also worried about the shutdown is the operator of the N3 supply route, servicing Gauteng with essential goods from the Durban harbour in KwaZulu-Natal. A security plan, seen by Independent Media, shows that security personnel will be all over Gauteng to ensure that order is maintained.
The national shutdown was first initially planned to force President Cyril Ramaphosa to free former president Jacob Zuma, who is serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court. However, in an intelligence briefing given to the provincial government of KwaZulu-Natal on Friday, state security officials said truck drivers, under the banner of All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF), wanted to use the day to violently kick out foreign drivers.
The drivers’ action would likely spur people sympathetic to jailed Zuma to spring into action and start protesting, thus throwing the country into chaos. Part of the information that was given to the provincial government made its way to a memo sent to staff members of the provincial Department of Health, sent by the head of department (HoD) Dr Sandile Tshabalala.
In the memo titled “Contingency planning for potential shutdown 23 August 2021”, Tshabalala said there are indications that the shutdown may happen.
“Most importantly, the #FreeJacobZumaNow campaign is also gaining momentum,” reads part of the memo.
Known official organisers of the free Zuma campaign have not said anything about the mooted shutdown.
On Sunday, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJOINTS), which includes the police and the army, among others, said it has put measures in place to ensure the safety and security of South Africans, amid threats.
“NatJOINTS is aware of inflammatory messages on various social media platforms, advocating for violence. Those behind these messages are warned that inciting violence is a criminal offence. Members of the public are cautioned against spreading such divisive messages,” said NatJOINTS.
It also pleaded with community members not to take part in the shutdown and asked community forums to operate within the perimeters of the law.
“The public are urged not to respond to calls for violence and criminality, and are thus discouraged from participating in activities that seek to defy the rule of law and undermine the authority of the state. We are calling on community policing forums and related sub-forums to work with the police, as they usually do, and to mobilise the community against any form of lawlessness,” said NatJOINTS.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said they are ready to meet and listen to any aggrieved grouping, but that should be done within the confines of the law.
“Protests and marches are legal in South Africa, which means that they must be conducted in terms of the law and national lockdown regulations. This right must never be used to infringe on the freedom of others. We wish to reiterate our position that, as far as government is concerned, tomorrow is a normal working day.
“We call for calm as we are not aware of anyone who is authorised to carry out a shutdown of businesses tomorrow, or any other time. We advise employers, and society in general, to conduct their business as normal but exercise extra vigilance. The rumours are being taken very seriously and our law enforcement agencies are fully prepared to safeguard the right to life, freedom of movement, property, and any other eventuality,” Zikalala said.
Furthermore, he warned that any unlawful behaviour would be countered by law enforcement agencies.
“In this regard, our law-enforcement authorities have been alerted of this possible development and are ready to deal with the situation, to ensure law and order in KwaZulu-Natal. We are in the process of economic recovery and rebuilding the province, following the recent civil unrest. We need to protect and save the jobs and livelihoods of citizens. We must not be distracted from our mission which is to reignite economic growth and to create much-needed jobs,” said Zikalala.