South Africa


Death toll rising, troops on the ground as looting and burnings continue on Tuesday

Defence force members assist with the arrest of looters at Diepkloof mall in soweto after sporadic looting in the area.Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

As destruction spreads and fatalities mount in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, Police Minister Bheki Cele and State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo defended the state’s response to the unrest on Tuesday. SANDF troops are on the ground while Cele said agitators will face consequences. 

Rampant and largely unchecked looting continued in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, with the true toll of the damage and loss of life likely to only be known when the violence subsides.

It’s not clear how many people have died as a result of the unrest that erupted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng after former president Jacob Zuma was jailed last week.

On Monday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned the names of 10 people who lost their lives, Nkosikhona Chiza, Ndumiso Shezi, Khaya Mkhize, Zethembe Ndwandwe, Lindani Bhengu and Lindokuhle Gumede in Gauteng, Bhekani Ndlovu, Themba Mthembu, Aphiwe Gama and Cebo Dlamini.

In a Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) briefing on Tuesday, Police Minister Bheki Cele said there were still 10 confirmed fatalities nationally. But earlier on Tuesday, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said 26 people had died as a result of the unrest in his province.

People look on at the body of one of two looters, near a place where they died, in Johannesburg, South Africa, 13 July 2021.  (Photo: EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK)

Gauteng provincial officials told media that 11 people had died during a stampede Ndofaya Mall in Meadowlands, Soweto, bringing the province’s total number of fatalities to 19.

Cele said 10 deaths had been confirmed while police were trying to verify whether other reported fatalities were linked to the violence.

Besides the death toll, another unknown is how the police and intelligence agencies allowed the situation to spiral out of control to the point where the looting of malls is broadcast live on TV with no police response and how in some instances SAPS officers have been pictured watching on without acting.

“I want South Africans to rest assured we did avert a lot. What you see is only a part of what could have happened,” said State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo during the JCPS briefing. The public hasn’t seen how the State Security Agency (SSA) and SAPS’s Crime Intelligence had acted with police to prevent planned attacks in Sandton, Johannesburg, and on Westville Prison and the ANC’s provincial office in eThekwini.

Defence force members assist the police to keep calm after looters cleaned up at Diepkloof mall in Soweto after sporadic looting in the area on Tuesday, 13 July, 2021. Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

“I categorically refuse to acknowledge an untruth that there was spectacular failure by intelligence. Intelligence has done the best that it could. We have supplied the information to law enforcement to do its work,” said Dlodlo.

Cele said SAPS members had to weigh the balance between protecting property with potential loss of life and officers should be congratulated for showing restraint and using minimum force to avoid fatalities.

Cele said 757 suspects had been arrested during the unrest, which appeared to erupt last Friday in response to Zuma’s incarceration and then turned into rampant looting, potentially exacerbated by the hardship many people have experienced during the coronavirus pandemic. Of those arrests, 304 were in KwaZulu-Natal and 453 in Gauteng. While he was speaking, Cele said another 30 people had been arrested in Gauteng.

Cele said SAPS will look at suspects who were “just taken by the mob spirit” while also targeting agitators of violence. Asked whether SAPS was looking at Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, who appears to have promoted violence on social media, the minister said the police are looking at 10 to 12 people who are believed to have contributed to promoting and orchestrating the unrest.

Police and security guards stand over arrested looters in Johannesburg, South Africa, 13 July 2021.. (Photo:EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK)

Dlodlo confirmed that some former SSA members, believed to have been aligned to Zuma while he was accused of turning the intelligence agency into a personal fiefdom, are being investigated for organising the unrest.

In his briefing, Premier Zikalala suggested the unrest still related to Zuma, whom he defended while also calling for peace. He encouraged legal protests while warning against criminality.

“We understand calls for the release of Zuma as the main cause for the instability. The cause has degenerated into criminality. Zuma worked hard for our province and country,” said the premier.

“It would be good to see the former president released but it cannot justify violence. Vandalism, stealing in shops are criminal acts.”

Defence Force members assist with the arrest of looters at Diepkloof Mall, in Soweto after sporadic looting in the area on Tuesday, 13 July 2021. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

Around 2,500 members of the SANDF have been deployed to help police quell violence in the two provinces and members of the military were seen in communities on Monday evening and Tuesday morning.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the deployment was originally aimed at protecting national key points but soldiers had been required to defend malls from looting. National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole said SAPS, with SANDF support, had sufficient capacity to respond to the unrest, despite clearly being overwhelmed in the last few days.

Multiple reports of abuse were lodged against SANDF members when they were deployed during the Level 5 Covid-19 lockdown last year, including the death of Collins Khoza in Alexandra. SANDF Chief of Joint Operations Major General Siphiwe Sangweni said members of the military had been trained to respect codes of conduct while dealing with citizens.

“I cannot stand here and say there will not be any misconduct but there are measures to deal with misconduct in the military and in any environment, even at home,” said Sangweni.

Aftermath of protests and looting at Ndofaya Mall in Soweto, South Africa on 13 July, 2021 (Photo: Gallo Images/Papi Morake)

Sitole added, “If they act outside the scope of the law, they also then become subject of the investigation.”

While leaders in other provinces remain alert about the unrest spreading, the violence has been contained to specific areas in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Videos of violence in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, circulated on Tuesday but provincial MPL Ricardo Mackenzie said residents had reacted to a petty thief before police intervened. He said there was no looting taking place. Western Cape SAPS Commissioner Thembisile Patekile said there had been “no incidents today that alarm us”.

In Limpopo, where there were unconfirmed reports of looting overnight, a number of organisations said they were prepared to prevent potential violence and looting.


Moletjie Taxi Association spokesperson Noko Mokwatedi said he doesn’t want to see what’s happening in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal spread to the province. “We also want to work for our children and not create unemployment,” said Mokwatedi.

While the spread of the unrest has so far been limited, Dlodlo warned that the violence could morph. She said the SSA was looking into the possibility of attacks on foreign nationals and a rise in right-wing violence, which has become a concern after some communities in KwaZulu-Natal have banded together to protect their areas.

Cele said residents need to help police to quell the violence but he cautioned that they should be working with SAPS and must fight criminality rather than judging people on race or class. DM

Additional reporting by Sune Payne and Rolivhuwa Sadiki/Mukurukuru Media


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Julian Reed says:

    Right wing violence? By Indians just trying to protect their lives and property? Continuing the perpetual lie. They should do more to ensure law and order. God knows the police will do sweet blow all.

  • Madeline Lass says:

    I have been receiving concerned calls from all over, including Australia and the UK; and I have been watching videos about the looting and reading some commentaries, especially the DM. And it seems to me that there is a kind of voyeurism involved in watching the looting for some. For white people there is a manufactured fear of “they are coming for our stuff”. And there is outrage, anger. White men are talking about getting their guns and going out to defend the country.

    It is so ironical that what is being stolen and destroyed now is a fraction of what the ANC has stolen from the country, particularly the poor. Yet, (to quote Bob Dylan) “Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise” — and drive their big fancy cars to their girlfriends’ houses. Many people were outraged at what Zuma and his friends were doing but no white men wanted to get their guns and defend the country. Nobody cared, because Zuma et al were stealing mainly from the downtrodden, from the poor who suffer in silence and will always vote for Mandela’s party.

    The current looting is taking place in mainly so-called black and poor areas. Some businesses in the more affluent areas have closed their doors but few have been looted. The reason is simple — poor, hungry people are going to steal close to their homes. How would they get all the loot home if they went to Hyde Park? (Of course, there have been the few (hilarious) incidents where people with cars joined in the looting.)

    Some commentators say it started with Zuma’s jailing. Perhaps not. Cyril Ramaphosa is a huge thorn in the forever-looting ANC’s side. They want his goody-two-shoes gone. First prize would be to get Zuma back in power, but any one of the clever thieves will do. How to get rid of Ramaphosa?

    1. Take a page out of Trump’s book. Lie and say that Zuma has done nothing wrong and that he is a hero. Over and over.
    2. Then create alliances with other disgruntled parties: local truck drivers who are on the warpath about foreigners taking their jobs (that old chestnut); taxi organisations (the most violent grouping in SA); young people with no prospect of ever having a job or a home; Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association; poor people who literally have no food to eat (remember the ANC stealing food parcels at the beginning of lockdown?); criminals who are in it for a free ride; arsonists who were beaten for wetting their beds as kids; and anyone who wants stuff.
    3. Tell them that they need to protest their great white hope’s incarceration.
    4. Then tap the first domino to set off the whole operation: taxi bosses and truck drivers block the trade highways from Durban harbour inland; restrict petrol distribution; stoke looters and arsonists’ hunger and desperation; continue to complain about Zuma’s unfair treatment; let the poorest of the poor loot and take the blame; topple the President; and hooray, the real looting can resume.
    5. As a bonus, the army and police are marginalised further.
    6. If the white men come with their guns, a civil war will provide even more opportunities to profiteer and the people will go to war with sticks and stones.
    7. When the time comes, Dubai will always be waiting.

    • Michael Forsyth says:

      “The current looting is taking place in mainly so-called black and poor areas. Some businesses in the more affluent areas have closed their doors but few have been looted.” I don’t think so. Davenport Mall in Durban, wealthy area, Mall at Hillcrest, wealthy area. There may well be looting on a large scale in the townships but heck malls in wealthier areas have been totally destroyed.

  • etienne van den heever says:

    It’s really rich to hear Dlodlo and Cele defend the indefensible, when the incontrovertible evidence is there for all to see. SAPS is asleep at the wheel, compromised and incompetent. (Apologies to the very few honest and hard-working cops who risk their lives ).
    SSA spends its time trying to find dirt on factional enemies – instead of rooting out RET-aligned members of this agency – many of whom are behind this unacceptable state of affairs.
    And they couldn’t see it coming?

    • Rg Bolleurs says:

      In every scene on TV showing the looters, there are zero police present. Once the shops have been trashed and stripped, along come the police.

      No wonder people think they can loot with impunity. It’s because they can

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    Cele said you can call 10111 to report incidents !!!!!
    At the bottom of the screen there were pictures of looters running through Alex, unbelievable

  • Dudley Annenberg says:

    What is needed is for the South African property association along with the insurance companies to launch a class action suit against the minister of police for the damage caused.
    Clearly the police are inept and under resourced to deal with these types of crimes. Until it is beefed up the looters will continue as they know they can get away with it.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    “after some communities in KwaZulu-Natal have banded together to protect their areas.” This woman is not only totally incompetent, she is stupid on top of it. The communities have every right to “band” together if the security forces can’t protect them.

  • Colette Hinton says:

    “We understand calls for the release of Zuma as the main cause for the instability. The cause has degenerated into criminality. Zuma worked hard for our province and country,” said the premier.

    “It would be good to see the former president released but it cannot justify violence. Vandalism, stealing in shops are criminal acts.”

    How can someone like Zikalala be the premier of KZN, when he is going to make outrageous comments like this! Zuma did nothing for KZN and he did nothing for South Africa. He is rotten to the core and deserves to be in prison for a lot longer than just 15 months!

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    All the police and the army must be in Joburg because they’re not here in KZN. Community policing is the only defense we have from looters and criminals in my area – for which I’m very grateful.
    It doesn’t make sense that 72000 members of the army were deployed to oversee the early pandemic rulings were obeyed and you were arrested after curfew if found outside your front door… whilst only 2500 have been deployed for the current violent situation. What the hell is going on???
    Not sure if I am happy to pay my rates and taxes next time around – don’t seem to be getting any value!

    • Alan Paterson says:

      Maybe most of our troops have been drafted to Cuba in part repayment for its rather invisible medical staff, engineers and “educators.” In case nobody has noticed Cuba now has its own pesky agitators protesting against food shortages and….”furious people screaming about the lack of medicine and doctors.” (NY Times online 11th July.) Birds of a feather?

  • Szivos David says:

    Consider deferring tax payments to an escrow instead of SARS until such time that the government is in the position to provide basic services. At this point the government is unable to fulfill its basic responsibilities whether it is public safety, healthcare and simple maintenance of power supply.
    once the country is under control the current government should resign and an acting cabinet should take place temporarily and we should have general elections as soon as possible.
    We are expecting the cancer to cure itself…. this is not going to happen. not now, not ever.

    Wake up.

  • Tore Rognmo says:

    I hope the State Security Minister has a Plan A,B and C in her drawer just in case we are on the verge of a Coup d-Etat. And the President, and the MoD, and and…
    Stop once and for all to refer to the super-looter smiling in front of his flat-screen in his cell. Nobody steal a fridge because he feels sorry for JZ.
    When Radio-stations are destroyed, factories burnt down, the coal supply to ESCOM now seems threatened etc, then this is beyond Mr Cele.
    The Army finally woke up, the untrained youngsters first. What about the thousands of heavy vehicles that could block all 2-way traffic in the hot areas.
    Finally, does anyone know what the RET-boss Ace is doing now, the same for his “secretary” Carl etc. (We know the Dep. Pres. is in Russia..)

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