We’ve never dealt with large-scale organised looting before - Dlodlo
Minister says government was caught off guard
South Africans have a reason to feel let down by the government’s handling of the country’s worst unrest, which swept across Gauteng and Kwazulu-natal, leaving over 200 people dead and a trail of property destruction running into billions of rand, admits State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo.
In an interview with Sunday World yesterday, Dlodlo said the rapid spread of the violence had made it difficult for the government to contain the looting of malls and burning of factories, among other acts of crime committed by mobs this week.
Dlodlo said that what had started as a campaign to free jailed former president Jacob Zuma had morphed into something unprecedented.
“We knew in our analysis that at some point some of the issues that were happening at the state capture commission … [and] Constitutional Court would cause some ructions of some sort and we forewarned about those ructions,” she said.
“The scale and the rapid movement of what happened made it a little bit difficult for us to really capture it as things were moving. We have dealt with protests before but we have not dealt with large-scale organised looting,” she said.
On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the destruction of property and theft of goods had cost businesses, consumers and the country billions of rand.
The national joint operational and intelligence structure recorded more than 118 incidents of public violence, arson, looting and other unrest-related events.
Ramaphosa said the government had been poorly prepared for the unrest and did not have the capabilities and plans in place to act swiftly and decisively.
Dlodlo said constant engagements between security forces and society would highlight what the government did to avert some other actions of sabotage that were planned by the instigators of the violence.
“I must say that South Africans are well within their rights to be feeling let down the way they do. But I also want us to take South Africans along with us so that they understand what is put in place in terms of intelligence and the interventions to react to the intelligence that is given,” she said.
Dlodlo also warned against the slashing of the budgets of the security forces, which affect their capacity to deal with situations as they arise.
She called for understanding that the violence happened within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“What we could have done, not today, is to ensure that there is capability to deal with all of these issues. The security forces, including the intelligence of the country, their budgets should not be slashed the way budgets are slashed,” she said.
“It becomes much more difficult to respond to issues when budgets are slashed ... and you are unable to source the equipment that you need to become as agile in terms of innovation and technology you employ to deal with matters,” she added.
She also denied reports that she had given Ramaphosa and Police Minister Bheki Cele dossiers two days before the outbreak of the violence.
“That is a complete fabrication. I never gave dossiers to any of the two. Even in the [last] NEC [national executive committee] meeting, I never gave a presentation from an intelligence perspective,” she said.