Call for SA intelligence community to stand up on civil unrest causes; Mapisa-Nqakula taken to task


Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) wants South Africa’s intelligence community “critically involved in understanding and characterising” civil unrest and violence that rocked the country over the last week.

The committee yesterday (Monday) held a follow-up meeting with Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and senior SA National Defence Force (SANDF) officers on what it called “violence, wanton looting and destruction of property”.

A Parliamentary Communication Services statement has it the JSCD wants “coherence to characterise” the cause or causes of the civil unrest that rocked KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.  The Cambridge English Dictionary defines coherence as “the situation when the parts of something fit together in a natural or reasonable way”.

The statement, issued on behalf of JSCD co-chairs Cyril Xaba and Mamagase Nchabeleng (sometimes referred to as “Elleck” in official Parliamentary statements), goes on to point out “characterisation of the violence will assist in planning and counteracting similar future disturbances”.

“The reality is the SANDF is projecting spending about R615 million on this project and it is critical there is clarity and coherence on what this budget is spend on now and what resources are necessary to prevent any future flare-up (sic).

“Since the deployment of the SANDF we have seen laudable calm and stability, which gives us assurance our security is in good hands. We appreciate the augmentation of the deployed soldiers and are reassured there will be no similar flare-up,” is a quote attributed to Nchabeleng. His co-chair is reported as saying: “We appreciate the information there is increased deployment and patrol on the N3 to counter any disturbance. This is critical to functioning of the economy, especially as the country rebuilds from the devastation caused by COVID-19”.

Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais told defenceWeb South Africa’s intelligence component either appeared to be lacking or its recommendations (“product” in intelligence jargon) were ignored.

“The DA received intelligence early on indicating unrest of a nature not seen since 1994 was coming. Unfortunately for South Africa, government and specifically the Cabinet security cluster did not agree, leaving the President (Cyril Ramaphosa) to stick to his ‘long game’ strategy.

“There appear to be major problems in the intelligence agencies (State Security Agency [SSA], SA Police Service (SAPS) Crime Intelligence and Defence Intelligence), especially as far as Police Minister Bheki Cele and SAPS is concerned.

“Cele, along with SSA Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, must carry the bulk of the blame for both lack of and slow response to the unrest,” Marais said, adding Mapisa-Nqakula’s observation that the level of unrest and violence was “not expected” was proven totally incorrect by intelligence gathered by a political party.

Public statements attributed to the defence and military veterans minister that the widespread civil unrest was not insurrection, one of the words used by Ramaphosa when speaking of the current sorry state of the country,  drew a rebuke from Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

She referred to Mapisa-Nqakula’s reported quote that the unrest was “probably signs of counter revolution, creeping in in the form of criminality and thuggery”.

Ntshavheni yesterday provided an update on the situation and is quoted by News24 as saying “the facts do not support Mapisa-Nqakula’s comment that there was no insurrection”.

The digital news site continues, reporting President Cyril Ramaphosa previously “articulated the views of government on the insurrection”. The “insurrection” point was made by South Africa’s first citizen during a televised address last Friday with News24 saying he used the word “insurrection” three times adding the unrest was “nothing less than a deliberate, co-ordinated and well planned attack on the country’s democracy and the constitutional order of the country is under threat”.

The Ramaphosa quotes on insurrection are: “The current instability and ongoing incitement to violence constitutes a direct contravention of the Constitution and the rule of law. These actions are intended to cripple the economy, cause social instability and severely weaken – or even dislodge – the democratic state. Using the pretext of a political grievance, those behind these acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrection”; “Yet, despite widespread destruction, this attempted insurrection failed to gain popular support”; and “If we stand together, no insurrection or violence in this country will succeed”.

Post the JSCD meeting, the committee welcomed deployment of 21 525 SANDF personnel as of Sunday as part of Operation Prosper and assurances more units are on standby in other provinces that have not yet experienced protest action.

Regarding impact to the economy, the committee said there is a need to consider designating the N3 highway and major arteries as critical infrastructure to enable better and efficient protection of these roads.

The committee is today and Wednesday in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng to assess the roll-out of Operation Prosper and its impact on the ground.

Ntshavheni on Monday said six individuals, identified as alleged instigators of the violent riots, were arrested and some have appeared in court.

To date, total recorded deaths as a result of the violence is 215, with three new deaths reported.