President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday, accused the instigators of the past week’s looting and violence of trying to destabilise the constitutional order in the country.
“Those behind these acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrection amongst our people,” he said in an address to the nation on Friday night.
Ramaphosa admitted the government was poorly prepared for the destructive looting which hit KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last week.
The president addressed the nation on Friday evening following his visit to KwaMashu, Springfield, Mobeni and Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal.
Earlier this week, Ramaphosa faced much criticism for the government’s handling of the violence with several voices calling on the president to visit the affected areas.
Since the outbreak of the violence, Ramaphosa said at least 212 lost their lives - 180 in KZN and 32 in Gauteng.
Police are investigating 131 cases of murder and 81 inquest dockets.
“It is clear now that the events of the past week were nothing less than a deliberate, co-ordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy. The constitutional order of our country is under threat,” said Ramaphosa.
He said the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) has recorded over 118 incidents of public violence, arson, looting and other unrest-related instances.
Monday and Tuesday saw the worst of the looting, but according to the president there has been a sharp decline in the number of incidents and calm has returned to most of these areas.
“Over 2 550 people have been arrested in connection with the unrest, and special arrangements are being put in place to ensure that these cases are prioritised.
“The destruction of property and theft of goods has cost businesses, consumers and the country as a whole billions of rands,” he said.
According to preliminary reports compiled by NatJoints, extensive damage has been caused to 161 malls and shopping centres, 11 warehouses, eight factories and 161 liquor outlets and distributors. Ramaphosa said this does not include the damage caused to roads and other infrastructure.
“We must acknowledge that we were poorly prepared for an orchestrated campaign of public violence, destruction and sabotage of this nature.
“While we commend the brave actions of our security forces on the ground, we must admit that we did not have the capabilities and plans in place to respond swiftly and decisively.”