Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

‘We will extinguish the fires that are raging’- Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa ruled out declaring a state of emergency for now in response to this week’s violence in South Africa, but vowed to pursue and prosecute those behind what he called a deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on the country’s democracy.

In a national address broadcast live on television, Ramaphosa said social relief — in the form of food parcels, vouchers and cash — would be distributed to those affected by the looting and vandalism which followed what started off as protests against former president Jacob Zuma’s jailing.

The Presidency, with the national treasury and the economic cluster, were developing a comprehensive support package to be considered by the cabinet, Ramaphosa said.

Though calls for a state of emergency were understandable, he said, as long as there were other means to stabilise the country, this measure would unnecessarily lead to drastic limitations on basic human rights.

But he said specialised units of South Africa’s law enforcement agencies were working around the clock to locate and apprehend those responsible for planning and coordinating the violence.

“We will spare no effort in bringing these individuals to justice,” the president said.

His address followed a visit to KwaMashu, Springfield, Mobeni and Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal on Friday morning to assess the damage caused by the week’s unrest, which was characterised by indiscriminate looting and vandalism mainly at shopping centres.

It was initially believed to have been started by Zuma supporters, angered by the former president’s incarceration in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. Zuma began a 15-month sentence last week after he was found in contempt of a Constitutional Court order to testify before the Zondo commission investigating state capture.

The riots, which spread to parts of Gauteng, disrupted transport routes and the country’s vaccination rollout and caused a number of businesses to shutter their doors — taking an economic toll, just as the country reels from the knock of the Covid-19 pandemic’s third wave and attendant lockdown.

The key N3 highway from Durban was closed due to the unrest but has since been reopened. Security forces are in place to keep vital supply routes open, said Ramaphosa, who earlier this week ordered the deployment of 25 000 troops to help police restore order.

There were 118 recorded incidents of public violence, arson and looting, he said.

Earlier on Friday, minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the week’s death toll has risen to 212. Nsthavheni said 180 people had died in KwaZulu-Natal — with seven bodies being found in a Makro store in Pietermaritzburg — and 32 in Gauteng.

The South African Police Service is investigating 131 cases of murder and has opened inquest dockets in respect of 81 deaths.

Ramaphosa stressed on Friday night that instigators of the “assault on our democracy” would be dealt with. “We will extinguish the fires that are raging. And we will stamp out every last ember of this fire,” the president said.

“We will identify and act against those who lit the flame, and those who spread it,those who are still attempting to spread it. We will find those who instigated this violence. They will be held accountable for their deeds, because we will not allow anyone to destabilise the country and to get away with it.”

He also referred to this week’s events as a deliberate attempt of insurrection, calling the attacks on businesses and the disruption of supply routes an act of “economic sabotage”.

“It is clear now that the events of the past week were nothing less than a deliberate, a co-ordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy. The constitutional order of our country is under threat,” the president said.

“These actions are intended to cripple the economy of our country, cause social instability and severely weaken, or even dislodge, the democratic state, using the pretext of a political grievance.”

Instigators had sought to manipulate the poor and vulnerable for their own gain, Ramaphosa added.

But, he noted,the violence had failed to gain popular support. 

“It has failed because of the efforts of our security forces and it has failed because South Africans have stood up in defence of our hard-won democracy,” the president said.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Johannesburg council member Jolidee Matongo touted as front-runner to take...

The ANC will likely announce a candidate to take over as the city’s mayor next week after consultation with provincial and national leaders

Covid-19 jab: a ticket of responsibility, not a ticket to...

Being fully vaccinated ‘makes you a little bit more comfortable in your skin’, says 61-year-old Elize Parker

More top stories

Johannesburg council member Jolidee Matongo touted as front-runner to take...

The ANC will likely announce a candidate to take over as the city’s mayor next week after consultation with provincial and national leaders

Clashes in Tunisia after president ousts PM amid Covid protests

Street clashes erupted Monday outside Tunisia's army-barricaded parliament, a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended the legislature, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis

Five things to watch in the Zambian elections

Zambia will hold presidential elections in three weeks’ time amidst an ongoing economic crisis and rising political tensions. These are the five most important things to look out for in the elections

Covid-19 jab: a ticket of responsibility, not a ticket to...

Being fully vaccinated ‘makes you a little bit more comfortable in your skin’, says 61-year-old Elize Parker
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×