AGE OF ANARCHY

The hot spots: Chaos and criminality continue unabated in Gauteng and KZN – other provinces on alert

By Daily Maverick Team 12 July 2021

The violence, looting and intimidation that flared up after Jacob Zuma’s incarceration continued in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng on Monday, while the SANDF was being deployed to assist overwhelmed police. The country is on alert as the Constitutional Court heard Zuma's application to rescind its judgment sentencing the former president to 15 months in prison. President Cyril Ramaphosa is due to address the nation later on Monday.

Daily Maverick Team

KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are on high alert with police investigating at least six deaths related to the unrest and the government announcing the deployment of the SANDF to quell the violence, looting and intimidation that flared up following last week’s incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation on Monday evening, at a time to be detemined, on the government’s response to persistent public violence in parts of the country, according to a statement from the presidency. The address follows the announcement by the SANDF that it has commenced with pre-deployment processes and procedures in line with a request for assistance received from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints).  “The majority of South Africans do not and should not tolerate violence, the destruction of property, and the endangering of livelihoods. People are urged to report criminals by sharing videos of criminal activity with the police,” said the statement.

People are also asked to pay attention to what they post on social media and to be aware that the sharing of fake news or content that incites violence and looting is a crime. 

It is also a crime to possess, receive and use stolen goods, or to interfere with the police in their execution of their duties. 

SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters told eNCA that the level of violence that has accompanied the widespread looting appeared unprecedented as multiple police officers were wounded in shootings while responding to the looting. The NatJoints said 219 people had been arrested as of Monday morning.

Jacob Zuma and his supporters had long suggested that any attempt to jail the former president could destabilise the country. The former president began his 15-month sentence in Estcourt Prison last week after he was found in contempt of a Constitutional Court order.

A stream of looters empty out Game on Monty Naicker Rd, where there is no police presence at 9:30 am on Monday 12 July. Several are using vehicles to load goods. (Photo: Samora Chapman)

While the violence appears to have been triggered by Zuma’s arrest and some commentators have linked it to his political and business allies attempting to maintain their positions of power and evade accountability, it appears to have descended into rampant lawlessness fuelled by both criminals and desperate residents attempting to take advantage of the situation through the looting of stores.

As rioters continued to damage property, setting alight vehicles and looting commercial properties — with liquor stores being prime targets during the Level 4 lockdown — Zuma’s rescission application challenging his 15-month sentence was heard in the Constitutional Court on Monday.

Dali Mpofu SC argued that Zuma’s sentence was unconstitutional and that his right to appeal had been denied, a strategy that looks doomed to fail as Zuma refused to participate in the court process leading up to the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

While small factions break open shopfronts, hundreds of opportunists comb the streets collecting goods from abandoned stores. (Photo: Samora Chapman)

“The NatJoints has intensified deployments in all the areas in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal affected by the violent protests as the damage to property and looting of stores continued overnight,” said the law enforcement structure in a statement on Monday.

“The NatJoints is receiving intelligence support from its Intelligence Coordinating Committee comprising of SAPS Crime Intelligence, Defence Intelligence as well as State Security Intelligence, to enable law enforcement to counter these sporadic violent protests.”

In a statement released at midday on Monday, the SANDF said it had started its pre-deployment process in line with a NatJoints request to assist law enforcement agencies to quell unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The SANDF, which can only be deployed within South Africa to assist police, said the deployment will begin as soon as all processes are in place.

While reports of violence are widespread and sporadic, with unconfirmed and at times misleading information on social media, this is what Daily Maverick has verified at the time of writing. Verified related violence had not appeared to have spread to other provinces at the time of going to press, but officials are on alert amid warnings of fake news spreading on social media. — Greg Nicolson

Police arresting some of the looters following sporadic looting at Letshoho mall in Katlehong. (Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

KwaZulu-Natal

Violence has continued to spread in KwaZulu-Natal where the unrest first erupted. Daily Maverick witnessed widespread looting in Umlazi on Monday, which was focused on the KwaMnyandu Shopping Centre, and halted only when security guards from the provincial taxi violence unit responded.

At Megacity Mall in Umlazi, looting continued at the time of writing. Multiple patients had been admitted to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital as a direct result of the current violence.

Dis-Chem said in a statement its pharmacies, including its Covid vaccination sites and drive-through testing sites, would be closed on Monday. eThekwini municipality said its clinics and community vaccination sites would be closed on Monday due to “ongoing civil unrest”.

Dozens of burnt out trucks at the Mooi River toll plaza in KZN Midlands after they were torched by a group of people who went on a rampage. It is believed the lawlessness was part of the efforts to reverse the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Supplied.)

The provincial government said on Sunday that, at that stage, the estimated damage in the province — a culmination of torching of trucks, infrastructure damage and looting — sat at a “conservative” R100-million. The eThekwini metro’s bus service had been suspended, and taxis were not operating.

Daily Maverick was only able to find one retailer open in the Berea/Bluff area on Monday, with queues outside stretching to 50 people. Most residents have bunkered in their homes in townships and suburbs.

Affected areas in eThekwini include Peacevale along the N3, Umgababa on the N2, KwaMashu, Inanda, Umlazi, Clermont, Pinetown and the Durban CBD.

In Umbilo on Sunday night, running gunfire could be heard at least 3km from hotspots, as perpetrators looted liquor outlets and shops, shot at and stoned police and set fire to stores and malls.

The Cornubia Shopping Centre, just outside Umhlanga, which is part of a huge R25-billion mixed-development housing establishment opened by Zuma in 2014, has also been targeted by looters, with a Makro warehouse coming under siege.

Durban’s popular Springfield Park, a manufacturing and warehousing hub and home to dozens of factory shops, has also been targeted, as have several malls throughout the city, including areas in Glenwood, Waterfall and Reservoir Hills.

Police in and around Durban had their work cut out on Friday morning until midday trying to push away #freeZuma protesters who were blocking the roads with burning tyres, trees or rubble. (Photo: Supplied)

In Mtunzini, a small village on the north coast where Zuma would occasionally stay while he was president, residents along with police and private security have barricaded the only entrance to the town.

In a coastal suburb of Richards Bay, Meerensee — where the former chairperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation, Dudu Myeni, lives — similar scenes are playing out, with the main road into the suburb also blocked by armed residents, security and police.

The latest reports from both areas are that the mood is tense but not violent. In the largest town nearest Nkandla, Eshowe — where Zuma’s bodyguards would often station themselves while on his protection detail — there have also been reports of protesting and looting.

As of midday on Monday, no reports of attacks on foreigners in the KwaZulu-Natal area had been reported, according to Daniel Dunia, executive director of the Africa Solidarity Network. Sporadic outbursts of violence in the province often culminate in attacks on foreign-owned businesses and residents.

Road Traffic Inspectorate provincial information officer, Zinhle Mngomezulu told Daily Maverick that 33 trucks had been torched between Friday night and Saturday morning.

Provincial Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane called on the public to allow healthcare staff to get to work. She said health facilities were bucking under pressure due to the protests and blockading of key routes. An ambulance was burnt in Howick on Sunday evening and vehicles have been barred from delivering vital supplies, including oxygen to facilities for Covid-19 patients.

Shops in Pietermaritzburg have closed their doors fearing violence and looting on Monday. Brookside Mall on the corner of Gumtree and Willow roads went up in flames in the early hours of the morning. Looters were seen fleeing with stolen goods as firefighters tried to quell the raging blaze.

The Greater Edendale Mall was also burned and ransacked after looters broke into shops in the wake of the blaze.

Several roads leading into the CBD have been closed including parts of the N3 Northbound near the offramp to Ohrtmann Road and the N3 Eastbound is closed at the Engen One Stop in Cato Ridge. — Des Erasmus, Lungi Langa and Sandisiwe Shoba

Gauteng

Looting broke out in Protea Gardens, Soweto, on Monday as rioters tried to force their way into the local Shoprite while others were seen stealing furniture from Fair Price. There were also reports of looting at the nearby Trade Route Mall in Lenasia.

According to police, one person was killed in Dobsonville, Soweto, over the weekend. Shoprite and Ackermans in Freedom Park, Soweto, were set alight over the weekend.

Supporters of former president Jacob Zuma march through the streets during clashes in downtown Johannesburg. (Photo: EPA-EFE / KIM LUDBROOK)

The Letsoho Shopping Centre in Katlehong was also looted on Monday as police struggled to confront a large crowd. News24 reported that one person was shot dead inside the shopping centre during Monday’s violence.

Much of the weekend’s violence in Gauteng revolved around the Johannesburg CBD in areas such as Jeppestown, Hillbrow and Berea. A security guard was found dead in Jeppestown on Sunday. The Rea Vaya bus service, Gautrain and Metrorail services in the province have been suspended. During the violence, 32 cars were torched at a car dealership in Malvern, Johannesburg.

Looters continued to target stores in Jeppestown after President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the violence on Sunday evening but the situation around the Johannesburg inner-city calmed briefly on Monday morning. Yet a liquor store was reported looted on Monday in Berea, suggesting the violence might intensify as the day continues.

This is the view back on West Street where two or three groups of looters have passed through.(Photo: Samora Chapman)

According to a resident in nearby Bertrams, Johannesburg, looting continued throughout Sunday night and business owners had shuttered their doors while residents were staying indoors.

“Shops near us have been looted; one person was shot by a rubber bullet. Just now I heard a gunshot so I’m not sure what’s happening as I am scared to check. But there is no peace at all,” she said.

Other areas in Gauteng where violence has flared include Daveyton, Benoni, Tembisa, Sebokeng and the Golden Highway.

The Gauteng government has appealed to residents to desist from acts of violence. In a statement on Monday, it said the volatility had prevented people from getting to work and disrupted services across the province. Some Covid-19 vaccination sites have been closed and Emergency Medical Services Teams have been prevented from responding to distress calls.

A man robs Total Sports on West Street just metres from a small team of police, who seem completely outnumbered. The mob are throwing rocks at police, chanting ‘Umshini Wami’.(Photo: Samora Chapman)

The Gauteng Provincial Legislature noted the potential spread of Covid-19 during the unrest.

In a statement, it added, “What is of more concern is the blind involvement of young people in these illegal protest actions who we should be looking at as future leaders of this country. Their involvement in these protests can have a devastating impact in their future as they might end up with criminal records which will affect their employment prospects in future.” — Bheki Simelane, Michelle Banda, Greg Nicolson

Other provinces:

North West

The North West department of community safety and transport management says at this stage, the province remains calm.

Departmental spokesperson Oshebeng Alpheus Koonyaditse said there had been some social media posts hinting at possible riots but none of those have at this stage come to pass.

“We haven’t heard any reports or whatsoever up to this stage,” Koonyaditse said on Monday.

“Of course the police are on the ground to ensure that everything is in order. We cannot ignore what is happening elsewhere and at the same time do not want to anticipate that just because it is happening in other parts, it might happen in North West too,” he said.

SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said the province had not witnessed any related unrest as of Monday.

“We are looking out into the entire province. We are also meeting just to discuss the plans in case something happens, but at this stage we don’t have any challenge. It is quiet,” said Mokgwabone. — Rolivhuwa Sadiki

Free State

Despite housing the judicial capital and being a stronghold of Zuma ally former premier Ace Magashule, no civil unrest had been reported in relation to Zuma’s arrest as of Monday.

Colonel Thandi Mbambo from the Free State SAPS told Daily Maverick that there’s nothing happening yet but they are definitely monitoring the situation.

Mbambo said police have been deployed at potential “hot spots” near the N3 and the Fezile Dabi District, which is in Northern Free State, close to Gauteng where civil unrest is rife.

Private security companies, ambulance services and chambers of commerce said the situation remains calm.

A manager from Harrismith Shoprite said that nothing was going on but there were rumours that protests might start tomorrow. — Julia Evans

Limpopo

Limpopo provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said this morning that they are currently monitoring the province in terms of any possible riots that might occur.

“We are currently busy enforcing the regulations under the Disaster Management Act and as we carry on doing so, we will also act against anyone who organises or participates in violent protests,” Mojapelo said.

Although Mojapelo could not disclose any specific areas they are looking into, he said they are monitoring the entire province since violent protests for service delivery and other reasons such as crime, in which the police had to act, were witnessed recently.

Ntsieni Mbulungeni, a member of the Thulamela Business Forum in the Vhembe District said they have not witnessed any signs of riots.

“It is very unlikely as the general public is expressing disappointment when seeing visuals from other provinces such as Gauteng and KZN,” Mbulungeni said.

“But looking at how these acts are escalating throughout the country, one cannot rule out anything as it really takes a few unruly individuals to start unrest. It is easy for people to join in because many people are already unemployed, hence the criminal characteristics of riots,” he said.

Mbulungeni further says as a business forum, they are worried that political differences are now affecting ordinary and business people who have been battling to stay afloat during this pandemic.

“We are simply not ready for this disruption. More businesses are going to be affected which translates to more job cuts, weakening the economy at a vicious cycle. We can only hope that security personnel are able to manage the situation,” he said.

Limpopo’s largest mall, The Mall of the North in Polokwane, was reportedly closed on Sunday after unverified reports suggested management had received fake warnings of potential violence. — Rolivhuwa Sadiki/Mukurukuru Media

Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said they are on high alert as violence continues to flare up in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, both of which border the province.

“People have a right to protest peacefully but those who will be breaking the law will not be tolerated. Police will be on high alert to respond to any violent protest that might take place across the province. Those who will be found breaking the law will be prosecuted,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bushbuckridge Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson Jupiter Malomane has dismissed reports from someone claiming to be a member of the CPF that people will be barricading roads, burning tyres and trucks on the R40 road.

“We would like to distance ourselves from that statement because we did not issue that. Things are going normally in Bushbuckridge. We don’t have any protests, businesses are operating normally,” he said.

Chief operating officer of the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism Linda Gerimbreek said business in the Mpumalanga Lowveld had not been affected by the protests gripping other provinces.

“We strongly condemn such barbaric acts even though it’s still quiet in our area but those businesses that are at the borders for KZN will somehow be affected. However, every business must do their daily analysis on what can affect their business, while others can opt-in temporal closure of their business to be safe,” she said.

She added that they remained vigilant. — Tumelo Waga Dibakwane

Northern and Western Cape

Northern Cape police spokesperson Colonel Mashay Gamieldien said the situation in Northern Cape is relatively peaceful and no related protests or looting had been reported.

“All police stations throughout the country have been placed on high alert. In the Northern Cape, we have a contingency plan in place should the violence escalate into the province. For now, no incident has been reported in our area,” said Gamieldien.

DA spokesperson Veronica van Dyk, constituency head in Kamiesberg, confirmed that no reports of violence have been reported by councillors in the broader Northern Cape.

“It was storming in Kamiesberg on Monday and I think we appreciated the rain more than protesting outside in the freezing weather. All councillors and activists are on standby to report any protest action,” she said.

Cedric Bruitjies from Mining & Construction Holding, one of the leading diamond groups operating in Richtersveld told Daily Maverick,“We will not use the name of Zuma in the Northern Cape as scapegoat in our fight to have our land and diamonds field back.”

Their defiance to land and access to diamonds resulted in the arrest of 37 illegal diamond miners for illegal activities in and around Port Nolloth and Kleinzee last week.

“Our fight in the Northern Cape doesn’t centre around Zuma. We have more pressing issues affecting our communities,” Bruintjies said.

There have been no reports of any related protests in the Western Cape. Although no incidents of looting have occurred, Vangate Mall in Athlone, and Westgate Mall, near Mitchells Plain, have closed as a safety precaution and private security is on-site at both malls. — Vincent Cruywagen and Victoria O’Regan

Eastern Cape

A truck was set alight on the N2 between Bluewater Bay and the Markman off-ramp in Nelson Mandela Bay early on Monday morning but police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said the incident was related to an internal company dispute and not the unrest unfolding in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

“The incident is an isolated one and is not related to the nationwide protest. It is alleged that this stems from an internal issue with the company. Police are monitoring all hotspots including the N2 freeway,” she added. — Estelle Ellis DM

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All Comments 13

  • Min Cele of Police was very visible during lockdown in Western Cape arresting people on the beach but was hiding today! He should be fired immediately for the lack of real policing during looting going on unabated

  • The fact that it’s only Gauteng and KwaZulu is suspicious. Surely if Zuma were so wronged people all over the country would protest. This points to an organized and co-ordinated affair. They knew in the current climate they could get the gullible on board.

    • Yes very well organised, shopping centre looting gets the affirmative shoppers on board, and then they have the taste for risk and into the suburbs next. Army needed quickly but in Gauteng no sightings yet. I would have thought they had practice with Covid getting mobilised. This is a war situation with lots of deaths.

  • the saddest part of all this chaos is no one comes out a winner. this is pure opportunism and disgraceful at that.
    watch unemployment increase as business has had enough.

    • Have we ever wondered in the past 10 years who was behind the looting of train stations and burning of trucks? Now they are out in the open to show who they really are – the RET brigade!

  • It has just been reported on TV news that the circulating video of uniformed police ( in vehicle 19194) loading their vehicle with alcohol and coolerboxes were infact “taking evidence that was retrieved from looters!” If you believe that then you must believe in the tooth fairy!

  • The current violence and lawlessness has been fuelled by those responsible for the rampant corruption & state capture, having warned that should they be targeted and brought to book, they will make the country ungovernable. They are therefore using the poor and unemployed to create a shield for them ever been brought to account and jailed.

  • Where is Cele and Sithole…? Now that real leadership is called for…looting, burning, political incitement to civil war… their absence is colloquially cacophanous.

  • Those responsible for hunger, lack of education, poor living conditions and an economy that fails the broader community should rot from the toes up in orange overalls. Suka wena.

  • If you look at the map from Wikipedia on the dominant languages in regions and correlate with it with the areas reported to have been hot spots, you may notice an interesting correlation. The cornflower blue areas coincide with most of the reported hot spots identified in the article. This may be a coincidence, but the blue areas are the Zulu speaking areas. This suggests ethnic mobilization was the underlying cause of the unrest. I would love a GIS specialist to combine the two maps and pick out whether I am just imagining this.

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