Amid reports of widespread violence, looting and riots in South Africa, the government has decided to deploy the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist law enforcement agencies to quell the violence.
During the last few days, huge mobs of looters have burnt down shopping centres and stripped them of everything they can lay their hands on while six people have lost their lives during the incidents.
Visuals from TV news reports show looters, consisting men, women and even children, carrying off huge furniture items from shops and looting pickup vans loaded with goods as a helpless police force remains overpowered by the mob.
Amid these developments, major banking group Nedbank has announced the of all its branches across the country and the SANDF issued a statement over troop deployment.
“The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has commenced with pre-deployment processes and procedures in line with a request for assistance received from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure to assist law enforcement agencies deployed in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal Provinces respectively to quell the unrest that has gripped both Provinces in the last few days,” the SANDF said in a statement.
“The deployment will commence as soon as all deployment processes are in place. The duration and number of deploying soldiers will be determined based on the assessment of the situation on the ground by the relevant law enforcement agencies,” it added.
The SANDF emphasised that the objective with the deployment was to provide safety and a safe working environment for members of the South African Police and other law enforcement agencies whilst they carry out their law-and-order duties.
Meanwhile, a number of shopping centres in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces have been stripped bare as looting goes on unabated. Even heavily fortified automated teller machines have been ripped apart and tens of thousands of currency notes looted.
The violence has been condemned across the board by the government, the opposition parties and civil society organisations. They say that these looters are engaging in criminal action in the name of protests about the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.
Zuma started a 15-month sentence last Wednesday after the country’s apex court found him guilty of contempt of court because he refused to return to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, where he has been repeatedly accused of involvement in corruption by witnesses.
In an address to the nation on Sunday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed concern about the violence being ethnically based.
The South African Chamber of Commerce warned about the huge setback to the economy as the rand began dropping in value.
There is also a major concern that the rioters will become super spreaders of COVID-19 as most of them were not wearing masks. Level 4 of the five-level lockdown regulations was extended for a fortnight by Ramaphosa on Sunday evening in the wake of the exponential rising infections and deaths due to the deadly viral infection.
However, Isobel Frye, Director of Studies In Poverty And Inequality Institute, said the riot is the public's reaction to unemployment and poverty spilling out in the country.
(With PTI inputs)