Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has squashed claims that the recent wave of rampant looting and violent unrest in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng were “insurrection or coup”.
Mapisa-Nqakula told parliament’s joint standing committee on defence on Sunday evening that the incidents were not a coup or insurrection, but a “counter-revolution creeping in the form of criminality and thuggery”.
“Chairperson, our view is that, to be honest, it is none of those. We heard people making reference to the insurrection [or] coup and the issue is [that] if it’s an insurrection that the insurrection must have a face.
“If it is about a coup then the coup must also have a face, but none of those so far [point] to that.
“Our view is that we are seeing signs of counter-revolution, which is creeping up in the form of criminality and thuggery,” the minister said.
This is in contrast to what President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his address on Friday, describing the incidences as “well-planned attack on our Constitution” and a failed insurrection.
Parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng were decimated by unrest and mass looting that left businesses destroyed and turned large areas into rubbish heaps.
Government has since deployed 25,000 soldiers of the South African National Defence Force – from the initial deployment of 2500 soldiers – to reinforce South African Police Service operations in restoring order.
‘Hit very hard’
Mapisa-Nqakula further indicated to the committee that the state had come under attack from counter-revolutionaries.
“The majority of South Africans are not in support of the hooliganism which occurred these past few days. If anything one finds that this has great potential of uniting us as a nation against those who want to challenge the democratic state.
“So the democratic state of South Africa here is under threat and it is threatened by counter-revolution. What we believe is [that] the right thing to do is to simply rally the police supported by the defence force.
“If this raises its head again, we would have to hit very hard because if it’s allowed to continue [in] my view is that people are testing the capacity of the state and whether they can get away with it.
“Yes, the deployment may not have been as quick as people would have wanted it to be, but what is comforting is that when the deployment finally happened South Africans supported that. Secondly, [the deployment] has made a difference. We have always said that the presence of the defense force always served as a deterrent and we believe in this case it is serving as a deterrent,” she said.
Protest death toll
No updated death toll was provided, with the latest figures – published on Friday – stating that a total of 212 people had been killed.
Of these, 180 have been in KwaZulu-Natal, and 32 in Gauteng.
Only one individual, of the more than 3 400 who have been arrested, was granted bail, with 1 122 expected to appear in different courts in the two most affected provinces.
Over the weekend, 92 people were arrested in KwaZulu-Natal for being in possession of stolen property. Fourteen, in possession of suspected looted property, were arrested at hostels in Tembisa, Johannesburg, Alexandra and Moroka in Gauteng.
Additional reporting by News24 Wire