Government has called on communities that are affected by the ongoing violence in parts of the country to act within the prescripts of the law and not to use weapons to deal with the matter.
Addressing a media briefing on Wednesday, Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, expressed concern that some community members have taken up arms in an attempt to protect their properties.
“We understand the concern for communities for their safety and the need to protect their properties. We would like to urge communities to work with law enforcement authorities to stop the looting and violence, and to operate within the rule of law.
“If we have everyone taking up arms, we stand the risk of having unruly elements hijacking the noble efforts of the community,” Ntshavheni said.
In recent days, parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal have experienced violence that has resulted in the deaths of civilians, the looting of public and private property, destruction of infrastructure, as well as the suspension of essential services.
“In terms of arrests, out of the 52 incidents in Gauteng, 219 cases have been opened and 686 arrests have been effected. In KwaZulu-Natal, out of the 156 incidents, 464 cases have been opened and 1 068 arrests have been affected,” the Minister said.
She assured South Africans that government is working with different sectors of society to ensure an end to the looting and violence.
“We are, however, getting a positive response that the deployment of additional law enforcement officers is starting to bear positive results, as we are seeing less incidents of violence and looting reported,” Ntshavheni said.
Currently, 5 000 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have been deployed to the affected areas.
“Law enforcement officers, supported by the military, are working tirelessly to ensure the country returns to peace and stability, and that those responsible for the instability are brought to book.
“Different Ministers have also been tasked to undertake monitoring visits to different areas, where violence and looting have been reported, to assess the situation and to call for calm,” the Minister said.
She warned members of the community and the media against releasing or circulating sensitive information on the investigations of identified suspects who are behind the violence and looting.
“The situation will jeopardise sensitive investigations that are ongoing and it can affect the judicial process. We therefore appeal for responsible reporting and sharing of sensitive information,” the Minister said.
Ensuring food security
In an effort to ensure food security in the country, government is working with the National Consumer Goods Council.
“With the looting of shopping malls and centres, the community is raising concerns on food shortages and stoppage of key economic activities.
“There are also reports of panic buying by members of the public. We urge members of the public to remain calm and exercise restraint during these trying times.
“If we have members of the public flocking to the shops and malls to buy food, we are also risking the further spread of COVID-19,” the Minister said.
Government has reiterated that efforts are underway to rebuild the economy, with Ntshavheni saying youth unemployment is receiving priority attention.
“In terms of the long-term programmes, government has already started working in partnership with the private sector, labour and communities on rebuilding the economy.
“[In our efforts to rebuild] the economy, we are fully aware that the unemployment of particularly the young people is a serious problem that remains a ticking time bomb.
“We are working not only to create jobs for the youth but also to partner with the youth to support them to start their own businesses, to make sure that we create a generation of not only job seekers but a generation of job creators, a generation of those who own the means of production and own the economy,” the Minister said.
Ntshavheni acknowledged that investments will be affected by the events of recent days but expressed confidence in efforts to rebuild the economy.
“We cannot disregard the fact that investments in South Africa will be slightly affected but we are confident about the rebuilding of the economy and the partnership with business in South Africa who have stayed true patriots in making sure that we rebuild this economy.
“In terms of local and foreign investments, government is already working with businesses in South Africa to make sure we stabilize the situation. We have confidence that the situation will be handled quickly and the threat to investments will be minimised not only from the scourge of the violence but also from the impact of the COVID-19 disaster,” the Minister said.
She identified the continent’s limited access to COVID-19 vaccines as a hindrance to rebuilding economies in Africa.
“…As long as the continent of Africa is still limited in accessing to vaccines, we will have a problem rebuilding the economy of the continent,” the Minister said.
Ntshavheni reiterated South Africa’s call to the World Trade Organisation to waiver specific Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) obligations related to the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines.