‘SANDF should have been deployed sooner’

Izak du Plessis speaks to crime and justice expert Dr Johan Burger about the SANDF’s response to the widespread looting being carried out under the guise of pro-Zuma demonstrations.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) should have been ready for deployment the moment President Cyril Ramaphosa warned looters and violent protesters on Sunday night (July 11) that government would not tolerate their criminality.

This was the response of Dr Johan Burger from the Institute for Security Studies, when the SANDF released a statement at midday today (July 12), saying it would deploy soldiers in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Read more: SANDF to deploy soldiers in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal amid unrest

Protest action intensified in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal this morning, with many shops, trucks, shopping centres and businesses being looted and burnt down.

Although it is claimed that the perpetrators are acting in support of former president Jacob Zuma, who is currently serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court, video footage shows that opportunistic looters are behind much of the violence.

Burger says that while the deployment should have happened sooner, the SANDF will provide much-needed support to the police service, which is under immense pressure and is battling to control the situation. “The SANDF is a symbol of force which should help the police to contain the outbursts of violence,” Burger says.

The protest action, which initially started in KwaZulu-Natal, has now spread to Gauteng and is quickly starting to spill over into other provinces. It is not uncommon for events like this to spread like wildfire, says Burger, explaining that this was demonstrated during past xenophobic attacks.

“The SANDF will have the same powers as the police, as sanctioned by Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act,” says Burger. He explains this means they will be able to arrest offenders and, if warranted and carried out in accordance with the conditions of the act, use force to carry out arrests. Burger says that in extreme circumstances, the SANDF will be allowed to open fire on protesters.


Section 49 of the South African Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, provides police officers with legal justification to use force in carrying out arrests, and includes the rules governing the degree of force to be used, as well as the circumstances in which such force may be employed.

While the late deployment of the SANDF places a question mark on the government’s ability to rapidly handle the unrest, Burger says it will definitely help stabilise the situation.

Meanwhile, looting has spread across Gauteng, with shopping centres and malls predominantly being targeted. In Soweto, protesters have invaded the well-known Maponya Mall in Soweto. People have been seen leaving the mall with television sets, fridges, electronic equipment and groceries.

Also read: #GautengShutdown live updates: Alex Mall shuts down as army arrives


Watch: Looting at Makro Cornubia diffused

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