Civil Unrest: SANDF calls up all reserve troops as tensions remain high in KZN, GP

Published Jul 15, 2021


Durban - As tensions remained high in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng after a wave of looting and rioting besieged the two provinces, the South African National Defence Force has called up all reserve members.

This comes after Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula requested that 25 000 troops hit the ground in KZN and Gauteng to quell the violence.

According to a circular sent by the SANDF, all reserve troops were to report for duty at first light today at their respective units.

On Wednesday night the military was sent into the volatile Phoenix area, north of Durban where several people were killed. Racial tensions between the Indian and African population were simmering.

Early this morning, Durban residents, desperate for food, fuel and other essential items were forming snaking queues at petrol stations and supermarkets.

Details were sketchy early this morning on the extent of violence and rioting overnight. More looting and burning of shops and factories occured but some of these incidents could not be independently verified by IOL at the time of publishing.

The police were expected to hold a press briefing at 10am.

As we enter day seven of South Africa’s civil unrest, it is impossible to know the extent of the damage done to the economy with hundreds of shops looted and thousands of lives impacted.

On Wednesday, the government confirmed that over 200 incidents of looting were reported so far, and at least 70 people have died and over 1 700 arrests made in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in the last seven days.

The unrest first erupted on July 9, after former president Jacob Zuma started serving a 15-month term at the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, for contempt of court.

Zuma was sentenced after he failed to obey a summons to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture. The unrest devolved from free Zuma protesting to looting businesses and violence in areas in the two provinces.

The South African Canegrowers Association said the running total of the damage to South African cane growers as a result of looting in KwaZulu-Natal stood at 353 000 tons of sugarcane that have been lost to arson.

Chairman Andrew Russell said this represents a revenue loss of more than R211 million.

According to Russell, all sugar mills in the province were forced to cease operations as they cannot receive cane or distribute sugar and molasses owing to disruptions to transport routes and blockades at these mills.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen 2 236 805 positive cases and a total to 65 595 deaths to date, the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) said more than 90 pharmacies were destroyed and looted beyond revival.

CEO Vincent Tlala said the council was distraught thhat among the looted items were Covid-19 vaccines and scheduled medicines.

Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) appealed to the government and civil society to ensure that people have access to crucial healthcare services.

MSF said the unrest prevented the provision of essential healthcare delivery by blocking patients, medical staff and critical supplies from reaching facilities.

It called for immediate steps to safeguard the right to healthcare and safety of patients, healthcare workers, medical infrastructure and supplies to avert a drastic escalation of the current Covid-19 driven healthcare crisis.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said intelligence information gathered in advance by South African law-enforcement agencies averted the burning of a hospital full of patients in Durban.

Weighing in on the financial losses which could add up to billions of rand or more and massive destruction economist, Mike Schussler, said businesses and consumer confidence in South Africa would be severely affected.

“This means that people will not see the need to buy cars and houses and businesses will not see the need to operate due to the violence,” Schussler said.

“The violence has caused far more damage. Imagine there are 200 shopping malls (affected) in the country. More than 6 000 trucks use the N3 and more than 250 trucks use the N2. The blockade of roads will have a severe impact on the distribution industry.”

Cas Coovadia of Business Unity SA (BUSA) said Coovadia said the economic damage caused by the anarchic actions of a small group of people would be long-lasting and would be felt broadly, particularly among those who were already under severe stress.

“The resultant loss of jobs because of businesses not having the confidence to continue operating will exacerbate an already high unemployment rate,” Coovadia said.

“These events are being reported on globally, resulting in significant loss of confidence in our country as an investment destination, at a time we are competing with more positive destinations in different parts of the world.”

Shopping malls and retail outlets in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have easily suffered more than R10 billion worth of damage over the past few days, says Neil Gopal, chief executive of the South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa).

Damages range from “excessive” to “total collapse”, and some property owners may not even be able to rebuild once the crisis is over.

Meanwhile, chairman of Seeff Property, Samuel Seeff, believes it is still too early to say what the effect will be on the property market, as “generally, it depends on how long it will take to quell the current violence”.

"Obviously the longer it takes for the government to bring it under control, the higher the risk to the economy and property,” Seef said.

Calling for calm, Tony Clarke, managing director of Rawson Property Group, agrees the industry should be able to ride the wave if it is short-lived, adding that if any sector will be affected, it will be the first-time home buyer who have been rising in numbers since low interest rates came into play.

Meanwhile Alexa Horne, MD of Dogon Group Properties, anticipates the recent uprising could cause an increase in the number of people looking to relocate to Cape Town.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) condemned the ongoing civil unrest that has subsequently resulted in widespread disruption of communication services, vandalism of network facilities, as well as the closure of various community radio stations.

The radio stations which reportedly had their equipment damaged and looted include Alex FM, Ntokozo FM, Mams FM and Westside FM, to name a few.

According to the statement, the Authority also received additional reports of vandalism of communications infrastructure, including an additional 113 network towers in parts of the country.

However, the actions of a few sparked outrage amongst ordinary South Africans who stood up, protected and cleaned up their communities.

South Africans from all walks of life took to social media to start or join groups to begin cleaning up and rebuilding towns affected by the violence.

There was disbelief among the majority of South Africans over the absence of an effective response from the government.

Community Policing Forums, taxi associations and citizens around the country are patrolling their neighbourhoods to guard against businesses being ransacked.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced the increase of soldiers deployed on the ground in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng to 25 000.

Mapisa-Nqakula acknowledged in the joint standing committee on defence on Wednesday night that the situation in KwaZulu-Natal was bad and that the attacks were co-ordinated.

“What we see are seeds of counter-revolution, the undermining of the state, and the state must assert its authority,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

However, crime expert Chad Thomas said the South African Police Services (SAPS) should have included the private security industry from the onset of the violent attacks, as the government forces were too few.

Whether police had the intelligence before the protests erupted, they were never going to control the widespread looting and riots, he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, in an interview with a national broadcaster after the media briefing, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo defended her ministry, and said SAPS had all the details needed to prevent the riots from emerging in certain hot-spots.

“I can never wash my hands of what has happened. That would be foolhardy. But as State Security, we did our job. We analysed and packaged information for the client, we gave it to them,” she said.

“Minister [of Police Bheki] Cele said that intelligence is driving operations. We gave SAPS all the information they needed to plan for these riots,” Dlodlo said.

“A lot of the time, our recommendations are taken on board by the police, and sometimes they are not. This whole thing morphed into something bigger than Jacob Zuma, it’s a manifestation of a disenfranchised population.”

Thomas said that whether the intelligence was given timeously, or whether the police acted in time, was of no value as the government should have always known that Zuma’s imprisonment would spark chaos.

He said the threat of unrest from loyalists to the former president were “well known and communicated”, however, no one anticipated the rapid escalation.

“Intelligence structures should have communicated a heightened threat to SAPS, and SANDF should have been mobilised earlier,” Thomas said.

“SANDF should have been deployed to national key points as a preventative measure.”

AmaZulu King Misuzulu KaZwelithini has appealed for calm and for peace to be restored to the Zulu nation while addressing the Zulu nation on Wednesday.

He pointed to the impact that looting will have on the economy and especially on poor South Africans who will soon find it hard to access food.

"It has brought great shame on of us as fingers are pointed at my father's people... I understand the unemployment issues that have led to this but I appeal for us to stand back and see the damage being done by our own actions," King Misuzulu said.

“I appeal to the Zulu nation to withdraw from destroying the nation. I appeal for calm and peace to be restored.”

Meanwhile, Zuma’s son Duduzane came under fire after he appeared in a video on social media pleading to looters to do so carefully and responsibly.

In the Instagram video he said: “the people that are protesting and looting, please do so carefully and please do so responsibly”.

In a video shared on the Instagram page of his close associate Winston Innes, Zuma said death, destruction, vandalism and threats were not the solution, adding that ways had to be found to deal with the situation, which was spiralling out of control.

Video: Winston Innes/Instagram

Responding, one user wrote: “It’s too late now, they aren’t on Instagram they are busy looting and burning the country down at the moment.”

However one Instagram user urged him to go on the ground to speak to people.

“Go and talk to them on the ground Duduzane, they don't even have smart phones or data to scroll Instagram,” the user wrote.