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Ramaphosa orders military to quell violence in South African cities

Violent protests have raged since the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma

south-africa-police-riot-reuter1s Metro police officers detain suspected looters at Jabulani mall as the country deploys army to quell unrest linked to jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, in Soweto, South Africa, July 13, 2021 | Reuters

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced plans to quell the rampant violence and looting in major South African cities for the past three days.

In a national address on Monday evening, Ramaphosa said the army has been called in to assist and all leave of police personnel has been cancelled as all available resources and capabilities are mobilised to restore order.

 "As the Commander-in-Chief of the South African Defence Force, I have today authorised the deployment of Defence Force personnel in support of the operations of the South African Police Service.

 "The South African Police Service is putting measures in place to call up operational members from leave and rest-days to increase the presence of law enforcement personnel on the ground," Ramaphosa said.

 Describing the looting as "acts of public violence of a kind rarely seen in the history of our democracy," Ramaphosa had a strong message to the thousands of looters who had stripped dozens of shopping centres bare in defiance of poorly resourced police services in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.

 "Let me be clear: we will take action to protect every person in this country against the threat of violence, intimidation, theft and looting.

 "We will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute those who perpetrate these actions and will ensure that they face the full might of our law, he said.

 The President added that the National Security Council, which he chairs, would meet twice daily during the crisis to coordinate all measures necessary to restore stability.

 "In addition to greater visibility and an intelligence-driven presence in potential hotspots, we will be prioritising the prosecution of suspects alleged to be involved in this violence.

 We will restore calm and order so that we can get on with the task of rebuilding this country and creating a better life for its people, Ramaphosa said.

 The President also made a plea again to people to avoid incitement through social media and sharing of false information, which caused unnecessary panic.

 He conceded that the violence and looting had been sparked by issues other than the protests against the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma last week.

 Zuma started a 15-month sentence last Wednesday after the country's apex court found him guilty of contempt of court because he refused to return to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, where he has been repeatedly accused of involvement in corruption by witnesses.

 The violence has been condemned across the board by government, opposition parties and civil society organisations. They say that these looters are engaging in criminal action in the name of protests about the jailing of Zuma.

 "This moment has thrown into stark relief what we already knew: that the level of unemployment, poverty and inequality in our society is unsustainable.

 "We cannot expect a lasting and durable peace if we do not create jobs and build a more just and equitable society in which all South Africans can participate freely and equally. We must therefore commit ourselves not only to peace, but to greater economic opportunity for all," Ramaphosa said.

 With residents in a number of cities and towns rallying on Monday evening through social media, some of them armed, to protect their properties against looters, Ramaphosa called for calm and for people not to take the law into their own hands.

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