As community policing forums and citizen vigilante groups in KwaZulu-Natal take it upon themselves to defend their homes, and residents take turns to guard their malls, opposition parties met President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday morning as part of his effort to find a solution to the violence and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Ramaphosa’s office said he had meetings the day before with the National Security Council as well as religious leaders and community organisations.
Ramaphosa and members of his cabinet also met business leaders earlier in the week in search of solutions.
“This outreach supplements the mobilisation of the South African Police Service, the South African National Defence Force and other law enforcement bodies to prevent public violence, loss of life and damage to property,” his office said.
Religious leaders have urged the government to consider relaxing Covid-19 lockdown regulations to allow faith communities to gather for worship while observing health regulations, “as part of the national effort to restore calm and provide counselling to communities”, the Presidency statement said.
But with the looting and violence raging on for five days, political parties and community organisations are starting to call on citizens to defend their livelihoods themselves. They have also pushed back by taking action, such as DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach who laid incitement to violence charges against Jacob Zuma’s daughter Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, Edward Zuma, Duduzane Zuma and EFF leader Julius Malema in Cape Town.
“Zuma-Sambudla has posted a number of tweets over the course of the last few days encouraging and inciting the violence and looting which has destabilised KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng. These tweets have typically included images of destruction, arson and looting, with Duduzile expressing her support of these actions in the captions of the tweets,” Breytenbach said.
“There is also a video making the rounds on social media in which Duduzane Zuma wows to ‘fight’ to get his father out of prison, while Edward Zuma made utterances prior to his father’s imprisonment that law enforcement agencies would have to go through him before they arrest his father.”
Malema, on his Twitter account, had threatened that his supporters would be joining the protests if the army was deployed.
Taxi organisations, including the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), were among the first to announce they would be out “in full force” to protect shopping malls in Gauteng.
“The leadership of the industry strongly warns those with intentions to loot to desist from any attempts as they will find the industry waiting,” chairperson Abner Tsebe said.
The National Taxi Alliance said the looting is disrupting their business, too, and asked for communities to help put a stop to this. “We cannot afford to lose the only black-owned and controlled industry in our watch,” it said.
“The very people doing this are going to have to learn to live with the consequences of unemployment, lack of amenities and a threat to food security, while we the transport business are losing on the routes that we nurtured for so long and the ranking facilities we fought so hard for at the malls.”
Anglican archbishop Thabo Makgoba said while he is concerned about the economic divisions in the country, looting is not the answer. “Much deeper forces than anger over the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma are at work in the mayhem we are seeing. When people go to bed hungry, unemployed, dominated and marginalised, the good in us can be overwhelmed, especially if we see no end to our suffering and especially in times of instability when it seems all bets are off,” he said. “Desperation can take over, especially when people lose confidence in their political parties and perceive the police as unable to protect their communities.” He said while South Africans had the right to protest, criminal behaviour was wrong. “This is not like the apartheid era, where protest was the only weapon most of us had. Now we also have the right to vote.”
Some ANC-aligned formations, such as the ANC Youth League and the Strategic Dialogue Group, have also called on communities to help restore calm.
“These acts of violence are a well-organised counter-revolutionary offensive against the National Democratic Revolution by elements of the old order in cahoots with some within the ranks of the democratic movement,” the group’s Billy Ramokgopa said, referring to how Zuma’s imprisonment had sparked the riots.
“It is absolutely imperative that the ANC and the government speak with one voice. Throughout the length and breadth of the country, provincial and local governments ought to commence with processes to engage with the people, business, labour, community, traditional, religious, cultural leaders and others in a common national effort to defeat the counter-revolution,” he said.
Solidarity Movement chairperson Flip Buys called on law enforcement to restore order and to arrest offenders, but said there was a lot that communities themselves could do to be prepared.
“If you can protect yourself and your family, you can also protect your neighbours. If you can protect your neighbours, you can jointly protect your community,” Buys said. AfriForum had established neighbourhood watches countrywide for this purpose.
“In recent years AfriForum has invested a great deal of resources in the establishment of community safety structures and already runs 159 neighbourhood watches, has a network of control rooms, a nationwide radio network, 12,500 neighbourhood watch volunteers, an air wing with 53 drone pilots and well-trained staff and volunteers,” Buys said. DM