President Cyril Ramaphosa has rejected calls to declare a state of emergency in the country in the wake of violent looting and protests that started in KwaZulu-Natal and spread to parts of Gauteng this week.
While Ramaphosa acknowledged the pain of some South Africans and business owners who have lost much to the looting, he said declaring a state of emergency should only be implemented if other means fail to stabilise the situation.
“A state of emergency should only be declared when all other means have shown to be fruitless. No responsible government would want to implement as state of emergency on its citizens as it drastically limits the basic rights of the people.”
As of Friday, the death toll from the protests stands at 212, with 89 new deaths recorded in KwaZulu-Natal overnight, Ramaphosa announced.
The government has since deployed 25,000 SANDF members to assist other law enforcement agencies to calm the situation.
“What is most devastating is the toll that these events have had on the people. It is clear now that these incidences were a deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our constitution. They were intended to cripple the economy and to severely weaken or destroy the state. The people who orchestrated the attacks sought to exploit the economic conditions in which South Africans live and provoke ordinary citizens and criminal networks to create chaos. They sought to manipulate the poor and vulnerable for their benefit,” he said.
“There have been targeted attacks on trucks and key institutions that are necessary for service delivery for our people.”
The President declared war on those who orchestrated the attacks, saying no stone would be left unturned in bringing them to book.
“We will spare no effort in bringing those responsible to book. We will identify those who lit the flames and those who spread them, also those who are still attempting to light more flames.
“We will not allow any person to destabilise the country and get away with it, this is a challenge to the people of South Africa.
“We will not allow any person or any group to challenge the authority of our democratically elected government.”
While the attacks created chaos in the country that saw many losing their businesses, Ramaphosa thanked South Africans who refused to partake in the looting and violent protests.
“It has failed to gain popular support among our people and because South Africans stood up and defended our hard-earned democracy. I saw them defend our democracy on the streets of Ethekwini and other parts of the country. I saw them cleaning up, united in their diversity and grateful for the support of the security personnel and made it clear they will stand with the government to rebuild,” he said.
Since the outbreak of this violence, at least 212 people have lost their lives.
Of these, 180 have been in KwaZulu-Natal, 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, he said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with families who have lost loved ones to these senseless attacks.”
Ramaphosa further admitted that the government was poorly prepared for the orchestrated campaign of this nature.
“We did not have the capability and plan in place to respond swiftly to this situation. We will do a critical review of our preparedness on incidences such as these.”
According to preliminary reports compiled by NatJoints, extensive damage has been caused to 161 malls and shopping centres, 11 warehouses, 8 factories and 161 liquor outlets and distributors.
Watch the President’s address below: