The ANC’s top leadership has condemned the riots and looting taking place around South Africa and says it will act against any of its members involved in instigating or participating in violence.
It’s national executive committee (NEC), which met at the weekend, has backed the decision of President Cyril Ramaphosa to deploy the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in support of the police, who have battled to bring the looting under control since it gained momentum over the weekend.
Speaking at a briefing on Monday, ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said that while the people had a right to protest, the party condemned the violence, intimidation and destruction of property “unreservedly”.
Duarte said the ANC supported government’s efforts to “ strengthen its response
and take harsher measures” against the wanton destruction.
“While these actions are being characterised by some people as a form of political protest, they are now clearly acts of sheer criminality,” Duarte said.
The party has been split over the decision of the Constitutional Court to jail former president Jacob Zuma for 15 months for contempt of court, with his surrender last week sparking a call for his release by his supporters.
The ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal leadership has repeated this call in response to the violence in the streets, and to appease Zuma’s large support base in the party in the province ahead of the local government elections, scheduled for 27 October.
Duarte said that while it empathised with Zuma, the ANC could not support violent attempts to mobilise in his support.
“The ANC repeats that we will never tolerate attempts to respond to judicial or legal processes by threats and acts of violence. Law enforcement agencies must deal with looting and criminality, and the instigators of such acts must be brought to book,” Duarte said.
The party would also act against “any people within its own ranks who have fanned the flames of these uprisings and called for, or are in any way involved, in inciting such violence.”
Duarte said the NEC “shares the pain of many ANC members and supporters who are saddened by the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma.”
“While reaffirming our respect for the constitution and the rule of law, we acknowledge that his imprisonment is a source of tension for some of our members. We nevertheless urge members to remain calm and desist from acts which divide and weaken the organisation,” Duarte said.
The NEC would continue to support the provincial leadership in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and would engage party structures in both provinces to brief the membership on the leadership’s approach to the situation, Duarte said.