Social media violence instigators warned amidst unrest and looting


The South African government has issued a stern warning to those inciting violence and disregard of the law with inflammatory messages on social media.

This warning was on Tuesday relayed by Ministers in the Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security (JCPS) cluster during a media briefing amid a flurry of public violence flare-ups in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Chaotic scenes have been playing out in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, leaving many businesses gutted and looted by protesters, who are reportedly calling for the release of former President Jacob Zuma from jail.

The Cybersecurity Act states that any person who “unlawfully makes available, broadcasts or distributes, by means of a computer system, a data message to a specific person, group of persons or the general public with the intention to incite violence, or call people to be involved in the destruction of any property belonging to people, is guilty of an offence”.

In a statement, the Ministers said those who engage in such acts will be liable for a criminal offence and could receive a fine or be sentenced to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years.

“As the cluster, we are monitoring all social media platforms and we are tracking those who are sharing false information and calling for civil disobedience,” they said in the statement read by Police Minister Bheki Cele.

Meanwhile, Cele said they are engaging different platforms to track and trace the origins of “inflammatory” posts and messages inciting violence. Cele requested that these be taken down immediately.

“While the intervention of some communities to actively stop the mass lootings has been commended, we encourage communities not to take the law into their own hands and continue to work with the police,” he said.

The Minister said the involvement of other stakeholders was also critical in the fight against lawlessness.

In this regard, the cluster had already engaged the leadership of private security companies to increase working relations with the police.

“As Ministers in the cluster, we have the responsibility to assert the authority of the State and to safeguard our territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic,” the Ministers said.

They reiterated President Cyril Ramaphosa’s message on Monday night in which he said: “We are building up, not shutting down. We will not be deterred, as South Africans, from the task ahead.”

The Ministers said if the acts of violence continued unabated, the country ran the risk of running out of basic food, a development that would be disastrous for the country.