South Africa’s democracy is under threat from rioting and looting, but Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula believes the deployment of 25 000 troops on the ground will overcome the ‘counter-revolution’.
Speaking to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on Sunday evening, Mapisa-Nqakula said the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng was not an attempted coup or insurrection but “probably signs of counter-revolution, which is creeping in in the form of criminality and thuggery”.
She said coups and insurrections have leaders but no one has claimed responsibility for the unrest. “We have serious socio-economic issues in the country; we have a high rate of unemployment, we have poverty but all of those can never justify the kind of action which was taken in the past few days.” The Minister said it was strange that looters were going back to destroy infrastructure and attacking clinics and hospitals, hence her belief the unrest is a counter-revolution.
Three more suspects alleged to be instigators involved behind the deadly unrest in the country have been arrested. Police Minster, Bheki Cele confirmed on Sunday that the three instigators would appear in court on Monday. A total of 12 people are being sought for instigating the unrest.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the unrest is an “unfortunate situation” but with the plan put in place by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), “we are optimistic we will overcome this whole thing,” and that “the majority of South Africans are not in support of the hooliganism which took place. This has great potential of uniting us as a nation against those who want to challenge the state.”
Mapisa-Nqakula warned that “people are testing, in my view, the capacity of the state, whether they can get away with it.” This means that if such violence and looting raises its head again, “we will have to hit very hard.”
Some 25 000 SANDF members are being deployed across South Africa until mid-August, in all provinces except the Northern Cape. “The deployment may not have been as quick as we hoped but when the deployment finally happened South Africans supported that, it has made a difference. The presence of the SANDF serves as a deterrent. It is in this case a deterrent,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
According to the Joint Operations division of the SANDF, more than 21 000 members are currently deployed across the country, including 7 000 in Gauteng and 5 000 in KwaZulu-Natal. Units are on standby in other provinces which are not yet experiencing protest actions. National key points and other assets are being protected, including harbours, airports, refineries, power generation infrastructure, the Union Buildings, Parliament etc.
The deployment will cost an estimated R615 million. Addressing the matter of finance, Mapisa-Nqakula said, “we have always agreed the defence force needs more resources. When there is the kind of urgency that occurred in the past week and developed into what we’ve all seen with the destruction of infrastructure, we have no choice. The president had to deploy. I would imagine even as the president deploys…at the back of his mind, together with the minister of finance, they know we have challenges, financial problems, and therefore there would be some engagement on how to assist the defence force going forward.”
Mapisa-Nqakula cautioned that “it’s not bullets that will solve the problem. A lot of political work must be done. Not by the ruling party; political work which cuts across all of us.”