Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has said government has moved to restore stability in areas where incidents of public violence flared up over the past week, when shops were looted in Gauteng’s metro cities – Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni – and KwaZulu-Natal.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministers in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster on Tuesday, she said “The JCPS Cluster has moved swiftly to restore peace and stability in Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane CBDs as well as in KwaZulu-Natal.
“Law enforcement will ensure that the authority of the state is not undermined. Any attempt to undermine the authority of the State will be met with severe consequences. An attack on law enforcement authorities is an attack on the State.”
The Minister said while there has been a significant decline in the number of incidents, police forces remain on high alert and are closely monitoring all hotspots to ensure that further violence does not erupt.
“We have noted with concern that the incidents of lawlessness have been characterised as xenophobic attacks. The evidence presented to the JCPS Cluster has not shown that foreign nationals are being targeted because of their nationality. On the contrary we are seeing acts of criminality.
“Whoever is found on the wrong side of the law will be dealt with accordingly. South Africa is not a xenophobic country,” said the Minister.
Tuesday’s briefing comes after shops were looted and others burnt and several foreign nationals being attacked, with some being forced to take refuge at police stations.
“There will be continuous joint inspections by the different law enforcement agencies countrywide to ensure compliance with the laws of the country,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
The Minister said close to 700 suspects have been arrested in connection with the violent protests that flared up in Gauteng – some as early as the night of 1 September in Central Johannesburg.
The charges for the arrested suspects ranged from public violence, arson, malicious damage to property, theft and possession of stolen property, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, attempted murder and murder, business robbery, and contravention of the Gatherings Act.
The Minister said there is dialogue with communities living around these areas.
Crime Intelligence has been providing ongoing operational support through the submission of early warning reports at both provincial and national level. Mapisa-Nqakula said this has helped in the containment of planned acts of violence before they can take place.
“Incidents of violence flared up but [were] quickly dealt with by police around Jeppestown and Hillbrow. Two people died on Sunday bringing the total amount of fatalities to 12, ten of which are South Africans and two are foreign nationals.”
The Minister said, meanwhile, government is monitoring the situation and the provision of early warning intelligence is ongoing to assist with the stabilisation and normalisation of the current situation.
She also said that assistance was also being provided in the identification of suspects resulting in speedy arrests.
“With regards to intelligence services, we want to assure members of the public that the intelligence agencies are working day and night to detect and prevent the occurrence of these violent incidents and a lot of these have been nipped in the bud across various locations in the affected areas.”
She said intelligence-driven investigations are ongoing to identify suspects and ring leaders.
On Wednesday, Police Minister Bheki Cele said in a Parliamentary debate that police intelligence is working around the clock to prevent more attacks and looting in parts of Gauteng.
“We have incidents that were stopped before they happened… We got information that there were going to be attacks in Soshanguve, Auckland Park, Primrose, Eden Park, Dawn Park, Midrand, Spruitview and Alberton. All of that is the work of intelligence,” the Minister said.
Cele commended the work of officers, who have been at the forefront of law enforcement operations. “Many of them are good men and women. Few of them are rotten apples… We have good police officers who are sometimes overworked but are working very well.”