Johannesburg, Jul 13 (PTI) A senior South African minister said on Tuesday that the intelligence agencies were investigating whether the former state security officials linked to ex-president Jacob Zuma were instigating the widespread violence afflicting the country.
The death toll from rioting in South Africa reportedly rose to 45 on Tuesday as police and the military tried to stop the unrest that has been going on in the past five days.
Minister of State Security Ayanda Dlodlo joined her colleagues in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster of government in a media briefing as soldiers started moving into troubled areas to assist police following an announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday evening that they would be deployed.
“We did receive such information at the State Security Agency and we are investigating. That information that you have, we also have and we are working on it,” Dlodlo said.
The minister was reacting to Eyewitness News reporter Barry Bateman, who cited senior sources with the police intelligence service saying that they had identified former senior members of the state security agencies who were aligned to Zuma as being central to instigating the unrest, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), which is Zuma’s home province.
Bateman said the sources also told him that senior members within the ANC who have been the public faces of support for Zuma as he faced various trials in court have been involved in the agitation. Zuma was the head of intelligence for the ANC when it was in exile during the apartheid era.
Reacting to growing calls for a State of Emergency to be declared, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said at the briefing it could not be done in South Africa yet, even as nationwide looting by huge mobs continued in the face of limited police resources.
“Yes, the situation looks like it has gone out of hand. Yes, people are in a state of panic. We are all concerned about what is happening but whether it would be correct for now that we should declare a State of Emergency, we do not think so,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
“In a State of Emergency you take away all the liberties from citizens and the military takes over the country. For now, we do not think we have reached that point,” the minister added.
Over a thousand people have already been arrested and more than 45 reported killed in stampedes as overwhelmed police failed to stop huge crowds who stripped hundreds of shops, factories and warehouses completely bare, even of furniture and fittings, all day again.
The violence started after protests against the imprisonment of former president Zuma, but the government and civil society groupings were unanimous that this has been hijacked by criminal elements.
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.
State Security Minister Dlodlo dismissed suggestions that the police were ill-prepared for the violence and looting, saying that the intelligence gathered by the Defence Force, Crime intelligence and the State Security Agency was analysed and handed over to the police.
“But the target was very fast moving. We tried our best wherever we could. We averted a lot more than what you see on national television because of the proactive stance that was taken by the services of the three ministries but also the work that was done by the police in averting greater crime that could have occurred in that time,” Dlodlo said.
The minister said Westville prison in Durban and the ANC headquarters in KwaZulu-Natal were among some of the areas that were reportedly targeted for violence or attacks.
She said among the areas in Gauteng province where attacks were pre-emptively stopped was South Africa’s biggest economic centre of Sandton in Johannesburg.
“I want South Africans to be rest assured that we did avert a lot. What you see is only a part of what could have happened, so we were not missing in action,” the minister added.
Police Minister Bheki Cele called on citizens not to take the law into their own hands.
Cele also pleaded for community action not to become racially motivated.
This was amid reports that communities were mobilising themselves to ward off violent looters, especially in mainly Indian areas of Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg, with recruitment through social media.
“It must be avoided at all costs that this becomes a racial kind of war. There are incidences that are really worrying, especially around Durban communities. We are calling on those communities to come together to fight any form of criminality, working with the law-abiding citizens and the police; not against the faces (and) not against a group of people, but against the criminality that would be prevailing there,” Cele said. PTI FH MRJ MRJ