POLL | Do you agree with cabinet’s decision to call in the army?

President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about the violence in his address to the nation on Sunday. File photo.
President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about the violence in his address to the nation on Sunday. File photo.

Opinions are divided over the cabinet's decision to deploy the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to restore order, as protests and looting grip the country.

Violence broke out in Gauteng at the weekend after days of protests in KwaZulu-Natal linked to the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma.

Kgothatso Madisa reported that insiders told TimesLIVE a decision to deploy the army was taken at a special cabinet meeting on Monday, with forces likely to be deployed by the end of the day.

“There will be shoes on the ground, by end of the day I’m convinced there will be shoes on the ground. You see, the deployment will be according to the police plan, it’s not necessarily a deployment of soldiers. They will go where the police are saying they need a hand,” said an insider.

The deployment was confirmed in a statement by the SANDF.

“The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has commenced with pre-deployment processes and procedures in line with a request for assistance received from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) to assist law enforcement agencies deployed in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces respectively, to quell the unrest that has gripped both provinces in the last few days.

“The deployment will commence as soon as all deployment processes are `in place,” it said, adding that the “duration and number of deploying soldiers will be determined based on the assessment of the situation on the ground by the relevant law enforcement agencies”.

On Sunday, NatJoints spokesperson Col Brenda Muridili said the police had arrested 62 suspects in the two provinces, including 18 suspects in Alexandra.

She said the police dispersed several groups over the weekend, including on the M2 freeway and in Bramley in Johannesburg, and others in KwaZulu-Natal.

Reports and video footage from Pietermaritzburg on Monday indicated that the Brookside Mall had been set on fire, suffering extensive damage, and violence erupted in the Durban city centre, Tongaat, Verulam, Amanzimtoti, Springfield and Overport on Sunday. 

The entire N3 toll route, in both directions, from Harrismith in the Free State to Cedara in KwaZulu-Natal, was closed to traffic over the weekend.

Speaking on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said there was no justification for the violence and claimed “some of these acts of violence are based on ethnic mobilisation”. He said those found guilty would be arrested and prosecuted.

“Let us be clear, as a nation, that we will not tolerate acts of criminality. Those who are involved in acts of violence will be arrested and prosecuted. Those found guilty of breaking lockdown regulations will receive the stipulated penalties. This will be done without fear or favour.”

TimesLIVE reported that the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry called on Ramaphosa to declare a state of emergency and deploy the military to restore law and order.

“While we have noted the rapid response by law enforcement, we call for further deployment. We are calling on our president to declare our province a state of disaster and deploy the military to come and assist,” said chamber president Nigel Ward.

EFF leader Julius Malema was among those who called for proactive leadership in the face of the protests. He said deploying the army to quell the violence should not be “the first call”.

“You can’t start with the police or the military as the first call. The question should be, where are the leaders to speak to their people? Are they scared of their people? If the answer is yes, the next question should be: why are [they] leaders in the first place?”