The Guardian (Nigeria)
South Africa calls for unity amid wreckage of unrest
SOUTH African President, Cyril Ramaphosa has joined post- riot clean- up efforts as his government warned against vigilantism and sought to avert racial conflict following days of unrest.
The country was gripped by more than a week of chaos in which more than 200 people were killed as looters ransacked shopping centres and rioters torched key industrial infrastructure and blocked trade routes.
The violence was the worst in post- apartheid South Africa and was sparked after former President Jacob Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail on July 8 for snubbing a corruption inquiry. The protests widened into grievances over longstanding poverty and inequality.
His trial for corruption in a separate case is due to resume today.
Yesterday, Ramaphosa, who has faced criticism over the response to the violence, told a crowd outside a mall in the Soweto township: “We all admit there were lapses, we will gather ourselves and do a proper review.
“People want to defend what we have in the form of democracy, our constitution and economy.”
He also called for unity: “We must emerge after this much, much stronger and much more capable than we were before this incident happened.”
Ramaphosa is under mounting pressure as only one of the suspected ringleaders of what officials have called an attempted “insurrection”, which caused an estimated $ 1bn of damage, has been arrested.
When asked if he would shake up his ministers responsible for security he said: “We are reviewing the situation, yes.”
Speaking from Johannesburg, Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller said Ramaphosa has faced significant criticism over his comments about the riots last week.
“He had said that it was ethnically- based and today he used his address to say that there was no link to ethnicity and the riots, and that notion was out the window,” Miller said.
She went on to say that there was a lot of “finger- pointing” between the military and the police.
“There has been criticism that there wasn’t enough intelligence passed on to police, in particular, to respond adequately to the riots.
“Police have said they were overwhelmed and didn’t have the capacity to deal adequately with what had happened,” Miller added.
Access to basic necessities like food has become a pressing issue in the areas affected by looting, arson and violence as many stores were destroyed while others remain closed.
Many in the worst- hit Kwazulu- Natal ( KZN) province are now going hungry.
At a branch of the Grace family church in Durban, trestle tables were piled high with donated fresh vegetables and bread to prepare food parcels for those in need of food.
Meanwhile, Police Minister, Bheki Cele has warned against “vigilante acts” after residents of Phoenix outside Durban, a township of mostly Indian- origin South Africans, were accused of victimising their Black counterparts.
“If we hear that people are being racially profiled at roadblocks set up in the area … [ people] including police, are being intimidated, violated and in extreme cases people are being beaten up, and their cars are searched and torched [ this] is simply criminal and won’t be tolerated,” he said in a statement yesterday.