SANDF continues to be on standby for July 2021-style unrest


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will continue to be on standby, in support of the South African Police Service, to protect all national key points as well as economic corridors of the country from any civil unrest, while an additional 4 000 public order police are being trained to deal with any repeat of July 2021’s violence.

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the July 2021 unrest, the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster ministers on Friday committed to ensuring South Africa will not again be subjected to the level of anarchy and destruction witnessed last year in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Some 354 people died in unrest between 9 and 18 July 2021 – the worst civil unrest in the democratic era.

“Working together with all South Africans, we are determined not to allow this tragic episode, which was characterised by widespread looting, wanton destruction of public and private infrastructure, as well as disruptions to economic activity, to repeat itself,” the ministers said in a statement signed by Siphiwe Dlamini, Department of Defence Spokesperson.

An Expert Panel led by Professor Sandy Africa looked at the unrest, and highlighted the following weaknesses in the Justice and Security system: The failure of the country’s State institutions to conduct timely risk assessments, the inability of these institutions to forewarn the police and government of the impending violence, the lack of capacity of the police officers to stop and contain the rioting and looting and the lack of capacity within the SAPS to control the huge crowds, which took part in the public violence and looting.

A number of recommendations stem from these findings; such as strengthening the capacity of law enforcement agencies to respond to all situations, reviving the functioning of the National Security Council, strengthening community policing forums, establishing partnerships between the public and the police, and establishing social cohesion and support programmes.

“Over the past year the JCPS Cluster has worked tirelessly to ensure that such incidents are avoided,” it said.

“The South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI) continue to work around the clock investigating the crimes that were committed and building cases against those who were arrested as a result of the July 2021 unrest. To this end, over 8 000 incidents were reported to the police and at least 5 000 people were arrested,” the statement went on to say.

Cases under investigation include: incitement to commit public violence, murder, attempted murder, arson, malicious damage to property, possession of suspected stolen property, damage to infrastructure, and culpable homicide. More than 3 300 cases have thus far been finalised through non-prosecution, with some being withdrawn in or before court. Over 2 900 cases were closed as undetected or unfounded.

There are 19 cases from which the DPCI is investigating eight in relation to people who were arrested on suspicion of incitement to commit public violence. The investigation of about 2 200 cases is concluded pending a decision on the viability of the prosecution of the cases. A number of dockets have been referred to the Directors of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for a decision further guidance and direction on the matter. Over 2 435 cases are on the court roll with over 50 cases finalised with a guilty verdict.

In the township of Phoenix outside Durban, 164 cases were investigated, 120 are still under investigation with a total arrest of 69 suspects who were arrested for various crimes. 36 of these suspects were arrested for their alleged respective roles in the murder of 35 people, while 31 people have been arrested for attempted murder.

The JCPS Cluster said that the Division: Visible Policing is actively monitoring the revitalisation of Community Policing Forums (CPF) to further empower and maintain functional CPF structures at local policing precinct level. An additional budget has been allocated for this.

To further capacitate the SAPS, the Basic Police Training and Development Programme for 10 000 trainees commenced in April 2022, after two years of no training due to the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In December these recruits will be deployed to various police stations to bolster the existing SAPS capacity. In responding effectively to public unrests, the capacitation of Public Order Policing has been prioritised. As a result, Public Order Police will receive an additional 4 000 members during this financial year.

Public Order Police members and frontline officers are in addition undergoing refresher training courses in crowd control management, and extra funds have also been allocated for the modernisation of the unit, including procurement of armoured vehicles and aircraft, and further funding has been set aside for the procurement of protective gear for Public Order Police members.

The State Security Agency (SSA) is being strengthened by the appointment of new members, including a full time Director General, and is prioritising the sharing of information between security entities.

“As the Ministers of the JCPS Cluster we understand that we still have a long way to go to bring the cluster to its optimal level. We are committed to do all we can to strengthen the criminal justice system as well as capacitate our personnel to serve our people better,” the ministers’ statement read.