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KZN unrest over Zuma’s jailing spreads to Gauteng

South Africa is going up in smoke as Zuma supporters run riot

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Thuggery, looting and lawbreaking that started in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this weekend after the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma spilt over into Gauteng on Sunday, more specifically Alexandra and the Johannesburg East Rand.

Protests in Gauteng, ostensibly against the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma, escalated into opportunistic criminality where civilians damaged property and roads, looted businesses and rioted, affecting public transport and City Power services.

In his address to the nation on Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “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 the lockdown regulations will receive the stipulated penalty.”

The Office of the Chief Justice placed judges and courts, specifically in Gauteng and KZN, on alert following the emergence of a threatening voice note on WhatsApp.

The Defend our Democracy campaign, led by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, condemned the violence and said it was particularly concerned about what seemed to be the active mobilisation of disaffected people, particularly youth, behind a thinly veiled political campaign. 

In a media statement released on Sunday, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) announced that several arrests had been made in relation to the violent protests in KZN and Gauteng.

“The SAPS in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, working closely with their respective local Metro Police Departments, have heightened visibility and remain on high alert in response to incidents of opportunistic criminality and violent protests in the two provinces over the weekend.

“Gauteng Police working closely with the JMPD [Johannesburg Metro Police Department] last night responded swiftly to sporadic incidents of looting of businesses and barricading of roads in Jeppe and Alexandra, and arrested 25 suspects.”

In response to the looting of businesses in Alexandra, “police arrested 18 suspects — 16 of them for public violence also linked to the shooting of a police officer who was rushed to hospital for urgent medical attention. Two other police officers sustained minor injuries. The other two suspects were arrested for possession of suspected stolen property and malicious damage to property.

“This group of about 800 people is reported to have attacked police, resulting in the shooting of police officers who have now received medical attention, with only one in hospital, in a stable condition.

“In the meantime, an investigation is under way to determine the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of a 40-year-old man who was certified dead at a local clinic.” 

Because of the looting in Johannesburg, City Power, after a risk assessment, withdrew its teams (including contractors) in protest-hit areas, which include Alexandra, Malvern, Jeppestown, George Goch and parts of the CBD.

“Unfortunately this will affect outage call repairs, and maintenance, and customers may see a drop in response to certain areas, especially those affected,” City Power said.

Gautrain announced that there will be no train services between Rosebank and Park Station until further notice. Park Station was closed on Sunday. The Rea Vaya bus service was also suspended because of the protests. 

Metrorail suspended its Gauteng train services.

In a statement, Metrorail said: “Metrorail Gauteng train commuters and employers are informed that no train services will operate in all its corridors across the Province on Monday, 12 July 2021. This is due to the chaotic scenes that are witnessed in JHB and now spilling over and affecting its operational areas.”

It would “continue closely monitoring the situation to determine when it will be safe to run the train service”.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura condemned the “lawlessness in parts of Johannesburg”. 

The Defend our Democracy campaign said the targeted acts of violence raise questions about deliberate attempts at economic sabotage. 

A burnt car at a road block in downtown Johannesburg. (Photo: EPA-EFE / KIM LUDBROOK)

“We welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa’s comments on Sunday night, indicating that those involved in acts of vandalism and criminality will be brought to book. 

We urge all arms of government to rally behind that call. Our security services must put in place proactive measures to prevent attacks from occurring, and the instigators and perpetrators of violence must be arrested and charged,” the statement said.  

“We cannot allow chaos and lawlessness to unfold, disguised as protest action. We condemn the looting, and those who have used social media to promote the mayhem. There must be consequences for the endorsement of violence.” 

They said that the organisers and instigators of violence were willing to use “the very real issues of hunger, poverty, unemployment and poor service delivery to foment chaos for their personal gain”. 

They said religious, labour, business and community-based leaders have a duty to call for calm, condemn the violence, and discount fake and inflammatory news. 

–DM/MC

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