More than 350 killed in country’s worst civil unrest in decades
South Africa said Friday it will not allow tragic episodes of the July 2021 unrest which claimed more than 350 people to occur again.
“The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) stands ready to support law-enforcement agencies to deal with any threats to the security and stability of the country,” Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, told reporters in the nation’s capital of Pretoria.
South Africa witnessed almost 10 days of rioting last year, from July 9 – 18 following the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma.
It was said to be the most violent civil unrest since South Africa became a democracy in 1994.
Zuma, 79, had been sentenced to 15 months in jail for contempt of court after refusing to appear before a judicial commission probing graft during his nearly decade-long presidency.
The protests, which began by calling for Zuma’s release, later turned violent. They were characterized by widespread looting, wanton destruction of public and private infrastructure, as well as disruptions to economic activity.
“We stand before you this morning, as Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security Cluster (JCPS) ministers, to make a solemn commitment that our country should not be subjected to the level of anarchy and destruction we witnessed last year in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces,” Modise read from a statement on behalf of her colleagues.
During the briefing, Police Minister Bheki Cele said police and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations continue to work around the clock investigating crimes committed and building cases against those who were arrested as a result of the unrest.
Cele said 8,000 incidents were reported to the police during the riots and at least 5,000 people were arrested, adding that most of the cases have been finalized through non-prosecution, with some being withdrawn in or before court.
But authorities are still following 19 people who were arrested on suspicion of instigating the violence who are currently out on bail.
Some cases under investigation include: incitement to commit public violence, murder, attempted murder, arson, malicious property damage, among others.