The Jerusalem Post

South African president says calm has been restored

Ramaphosa says police have arrested over 2,500 people, admits gov’t was poorly prepared for violence

- • By OLIVIA KUMWENDA-MTAMBO

JOHANNESBU­RG (Reuters) – President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday the unrest that has ripped through South Africa in the past week was stabilizin­g and calm has been restored to most of the affected areas, but the destructio­n will cost the country billions of rand.

Ramaphosa was addressing the nation over the rioting that broke out in several parts of the country last week after his predecesso­r, Jacob Zuma, was jailed for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry.

The unrest swiftly degenerate­d into looting, which has destroyed hundreds of businesses and killed over 200 people, driven by widespread anger over the poverty and inequality that persist nearly three decades after the end of white minority rule.

The Police has arrested over 2,500 people suspected of being involved in inciting violence and these cases are being prioritize­d, Ramaphosa said.

“It is our firm view that the deployment of our security forces, working together with communitie­s and social partners across the country, will be able to restore order and prevent further violence,” he said. “We will extinguish the fires that are raging, and stamp out every last ember.”

The president said that, using the pretext of a political grievance, those behind these acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrecti­on.

“They have sought to exploit

the social and economic conditions under which many South Africans live,” he said.

The long-term social and economic cost of the unrest was also becoming clearer, with calls for the government to address underlying problems to head off more violence and despair.

Wall Street bank JPMorgan said the unrest would force South Africa’s economy to contract by 3% in the third quarter and drag down full-year growth.

The head of the armed forces, Lt.-Gen. Rudzani Maphwanya, addressing soldiers in Alexandra, Johannesbu­rg, said: “It is no longer just thuggery – this is economic sabotage... It is a threat to our people, so you have to restore that freedom.”

THE NELSON Mandela Foundation – a legacy of the late leader of the anti-apartheid struggle and South Africa’s first Black president – said violence had been growing at “disturbing levels” in the last two decades.

“There are too many people feeling discarded and in despair, too many people with nothing to lose; too many people who have seen political and other elites at all levels play fast and loose with the law, with impunity,” the foundation said.

The head of Statistics South Africa, Risenga Maluleke, said it could take years to rebuild damaged infrastruc­ture, and small businesses “will find it difficult to rise from the ashes.”

This would lead to even more

unemployme­nt, he said. Most of the people in the streets were youths with few job prospects and limited education opportunit­ies.

Half of South Africans live below the official poverty line and unemployme­nt stood at a record 32% in the first three months of 2021, partly due to the impact of COVID-19.

The president acknowledg­ed that the country’s state security system was poorly prepared for the orchestrat­ed campaign that destabiliz­ed the country.

“We must admit that we did not have the capabiliti­es and plans in place to respond swiftly and decisively,” he said.

The ransacking of stores has led to shortages of essential goods.

State logistics group Transnet said operations at Durban and Richards Bay ports were improving although road closures and fuel and food shortages were constraini­ng its supply chain. Richards Bay had cleared all its shipping backlogs.

Retailer Massmart said protesters had looted 41 of its stores and two distributi­on centers, with four sites damaged by arson.

RAMAPHOSA, HOWEVER, said there was no shortage of food and supplies and urged people not to resort to panic-buying.

He has authorized the deployment of 25,000 armed forces members, who will protect all key installati­ons and commercial sites vital to the functionin­g of the economy.

He ruled out the need to impose emergency rule in the country.

The official death toll stood at 180 in KwaZulu-Natal – Zuma’s homeland and main support base – and 32 in Gauteng, which includes Johannesbu­rg, making a total of 212, Ramaphosa said.

The destructio­n of property and theft of goods has cost businesses, consumers and the country as a whole billions of rands, Ramaphosa said, and its impact will linger for “weeks and months to come.”

Cedric Masondo, managing director of Sasria, a stateowned insurer, told Reuters on Wednesday that the claims for damage and theft from businesses affected by civil unrest are likely to top 10 billion rand ($692 million), the highest the company has ever paid.

Zuma, 79, was sentenced last month for defying an order to give evidence at a judicial inquiry probing high-level graft during his time in office from 2009 to 2018.

He has pleaded not guilty in a separate case on charges including corruption, fraud, racketeeri­ng and money laundering, saying he is the victim of a political witch-hunt.

His downfall has opened up a power struggle within the African National Congress (ANC), in power since the end of apartheid in 1994. Zuma loyalists make up the strongest faction opposing Ramaphosa.

Zuma’s corruption trial will resume in the Pietermari­tzburg High Court on Monday.

 ?? (Rogan Ward/Reuters) ?? A TANK patrols near a shopping center that was damaged after several days of looting following the imprisonme­nt of former South Africa president Jacob Zuma in Durban, South Africa, on Friday.
(Rogan Ward/Reuters) A TANK patrols near a shopping center that was damaged after several days of looting following the imprisonme­nt of former South Africa president Jacob Zuma in Durban, South Africa, on Friday.

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