/ 29 July 2021

State of disaster declared after bloody KwaZulu-Natal riots

Safrica Politics Unrest
Provincial government says it cannot deal with the magnitude of the damage to infrastructure alone. (Photo by RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP)

The KwaZulu-Natal cabinet has declared a state of disaster in the province as a result of the more than R1.5-billion in damage to government property caused by what national  authorities are calling a failed insurrection by supporters of former president Jacob Zuma earlier this month.

The decision was announced on Thursday by Premier Sihle Zikalala, who said the move was taken because of the “magnitude of the damage caused by the recent civil unrest”.

Zikalala said a progress report received by the cabinet on Wednesday estimated the damage to provincial government infrastructure at about R1.45-billion, and that municipal infrastructure to the tune of R47.3-million had been destroyed. 

The total cost of the damage caused by the looting and arson attacks — which claimed more than 350 lives in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng — has not been finalised, but Zikalala said it currently stood at about R1.58-billion.

Zikalala said the cabinet believed the province did not have the capacity to deal with the damage caused by the week of attacks, sparked by the imprisonment of Zuma on contempt of court charges.

The former head of state is currently serving a 15-month sentence at the Estcourt Correctional Centre. Zuma is also facing corruption charges in the Pietermaritzburg high court stemming from the 1990s arms deal. The case resumes next month.

“It was resolved that with the work done so far, the situation is beyond the provincial and municipal capacity to deal with the cost of public riots and unrest as reported,” Zikalala said.

The province had made the application to the national disaster management centre in terms of section 23 (1)(b) of the Disaster Management Act, he said, adding: “The declaration of a provincial state of disaster will support the reprioritisation of budgets to implement the repairs and recovery programmes.”

Zikalala said the damage to public infrastructure was “serious”.

“What we saw, we don’t wish to happen anywhere. This has affected the cities, it has affected the small towns and it has affected your rural places that are very small,” he said.

The premier said the provincial cabinet “appreciated” the role being played by the police and the army in restoring peace to the province.

“We appreciate your contribution. We will also play our part. We have a role to build stability,” he said.