KZN premier on riots and vandalism

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Outlining KwaZulu-Natal’s plans to deal with the current spate of violent protests, Premier Sihle Zikalala assured citizens government is working hard to stop the riots.

During a media briefing on Tuesday, the Premier said a multi-pronged response plan to deal with the protests has been developed and will be implemented by law enforcement agencies.

“The deployment of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) came as a result of engagements in the security cluster having seen events in various wards,” the Premier said.

The SANDF will support the SA Police Service (SAPS).

“Their deployment will be supported by the intelligence co-ordinating committee, which will include intelligence, defence intelligence and State security. These forces will be part of our multi-disciplinary law enforcement strategy to quell unrest and attempts to render the province ungovernable.

“This will enable our law enforcement authorities to counter these sporadic yet well-orchestrated violent protests,” Zikalala said.

In this regard, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) and the Provincial Joint Operational and Intelligence Structures (PROVJOINTS) intensified deployment in all areas affected by violent protests.

This has been done to arrest protests and damage to property, as well as to stop the looting.

The SAPS, together with law enforcement authorities, will man all key economic centres, highways and strategic areas leading to hospitals, the port of Durban and national key points.

“As the provincial government, we have directed all municipalities must operationalise Operation Sukuma Sakhe to identify risks and threats in their area and report these before they even happen.

“We also activated co-ordination at district level, where mayors and councillors will work with all stakeholders and assist law enforcement to attend to threats and protests engulfing our areas.

“We are ensuring all MECs are on the ground, working with their respective mayors, stakeholders and districts to identify areas that might have threats and ensure they are addressed,” the Premier said.

Zikalala said according to the latest fatality statistics, 26 people died during a stampede when protestors ran riot. Law enforcement agencies arrested 187 suspects.

The destruction to private and public infrastructure in the province is estimated at about R1 billion.

“The violent protests had a negative impact on the economy of our province. This is largely because protests targeted key economic centres and infrastructure, including shopping malls, trucks and major arteries such as the N2 and N3.

“More significantly, this violence crippled our small and emerging businesses. Hawkers cannot sell because cities are shut down,” Zikalala said.

With the taxi industry not operating, it is losing money and risks losing vehicles due to being unable to meet commitment to banks.

“Sectors severely impacted include freight and retail. Other sectors were not spared, as many companies suspended operations due to the inability to transport materials and stock.

“These incidents have potential to dampen investor confidence and derail our economic recovery efforts. The social cost of the damage might come in the form of increased unemployment and increased poverty in years to come,” the Premier said.

Blockading key infrastructure routes made mobility difficult and this is worsened by unavailability of public transport.

“As a result, some community health centres and clinics are operating on skeleton staff, with many nurses, doctors, allied workers and general staff unable to report for work.

“Some clinics were closed because of the unrest. Many hospitals with trauma cases are unable to perform important procedures such as x-rays and others.

“It is concerning that in some cases, protestors stop vehicles from delivering much-needed oxygen for patients battling COVID-19 and other ailments,” the Premier said.

The protests also put a stop to the COVID-19 vaccination rollout programme.

“The current situation has a huge potential to undermine advances in battling the Delta variant of COVID-19, increasing at an uncontrollable rate across the province,” the Premier said.

Most municipalities in the province are adversely affected.

“Delivery of services has halted due to continuing unrest. Maintenance and infrastructure repair teams are unable to reach areas that require work.

“The sporadic outbreak of violence also hindered delivery of basic services such as waste removal and provision of water by tankers in water scarce communities,” the Premier said.

Zikalala has called for the return of peace, calm and stability in the province and the country.

“We appeal to the collective conscious of all trying to render our province ungovernable to desist to avert an unnecessary loss of life,” he said.