Johannesburg, Jul 16 (PTI) South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday said that investor confidence in the country has been severely dented by the ongoing rampant looting and arson and the nation has been taken backwards on the path to economic recovery.
Ramaphosa was speaking to the media during a brief visit to assess the damage in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, the worst hit from the violence, where businesses, factories, and strategic distribution centres continue to be looted and set alight for the seventh consecutive day.
The president's comments came as ratings agency Moody confirmed the risks for investors in South Africa.
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, acting minister for the office of the president, confirmed that the death toll from the violence now stood at 121, with 95 in KZN and 26 in Gauteng. This included an earlier confirmation by Gauteng Premier David Makhura that 10 people had died during a stampede by looters at a Gauteng Mall.
“The economic damage that has been done, including just looking at our country from both internal investors as well as external investors as an economic destination, has been severely dented; so we have really been taken backwards on our path for economic recovery.
“There has been complete destruction of the livelihoods of people that are now going to have to go forward having lost jobs,” Ramaphosa said.
The violence began last Wednesday after former president Jacob Zuma began serving his 15-month sentence in a contempt of court case. Over 1,200 people have been arrested. Several factories and vital supply routes were burnt down in the violence.
The protests started with a call to release 79-year-old Zuma from jail, but have now devolved into massive looting and destruction of infrastructure.
Ramaphosa confirmed that 25,000 soldiers were being rolled out across the country to control the violence.
“It is unfortunate that so much damage has been done to our country and people have lost their lives – that is the most concerning issue,” Ramaphosa said.
“It’s quite clear that all these incidents of looting were instigated. Our intelligence services and our police have now got a line of sight that what actually was happening here was by people who planned it (and) coordinated it.
“We are after those people. We are going after them. We have identified a good number of them and we will not allow anarchy and mayhem to just unfold in our country,” Ramaphosa said.
The president said that in a short space of time, the rioters would have flooded the entire province and other provinces such as Gauteng as well.
The economic hub of Gauteng province has also been hit by the looting and arson, where the port city of Ethekwini accounts for about 90 per cent of South Africa’s imports being moved inland.
There are already shortages of basic foods, medicines and fuel due to the unrest.
Conceding that the government could have acted more swiftly, the president said, 'Yes, we could have done better, but we were overwhelmed by the situation and paramount in the mind of the minister of police and the command was to save lives and to make sure that we did not get into a situation which did not result in more mayhem.
“We regret the situation that has resulted in this. This is not what we wanted to see in our country. Obviously we are going to have to re-examine everything that we do in defence of our people and defence of the assets of our country,” he said.
The president also lauded citizens who were coming forward to support security forces.
“Ordinary citizens have felt that they need to defend their areas and their assets and we welcome the fact that ordinary citizens are working together with the security forces. (They are) standing up not only to defend their own assets, but they are also defending our democracy, because they can see that this is an assault on the democratic situation that we have in our country.
“We could have acted quicker but they are now joining hands with us. Many of our people are working together – the religious community, the business community, ordinary people in their homes and in the streets of our country,' he said.
“The instigators want to spread instability in the country and we don’t know what their full and true intentions are, but the democratic state is what our people are defending,” Ramaphosa said. PTI FH RS AKJ RS