President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for calm and restraint in the wake of the riots and looting seen in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng over the last week, calling on South Africans not to take the law into their own hands.
The president briefed the nation in an address on Friday night on the government’s response to the violence and unrest.
He called the events of the last week an attempt to provoke a popular insurrection but that the attempt had failed because of the efforts of the country’s security forces and because South Africans had rejected it stood up in defence of “our hard-won democracy”.
The president, though, did admit that the government was poorly prepared for the orchestrated campaign of public violence, destruction, and sabotage and had failed to have the capabilities and plans in place to respond to the violence and looting.
He commended the police for their “commendable restraint” in preventing any loss of life or further escalation.
The president vowed that those behind the attempted insurrection would be found.
“We will identify and act against those who lit the flame, and those who spread it. We will find those who instigated this violence. They will be held accountable for their deeds. We will not allow anyone to destabilize our country and get away with it. We will not allow any person or any group to challenge the authority of our democratically elected government,” President Ramaphosa said.
He added that a declaration of a state of emergency was not necessary as ” a state of emergency should only be declared when all other means of stabilizing the situation have shown to be inadequate. A state of emergency would allow a drastic limitation of the basic rights contained in our Constitution, which no responsible government would want to do unless it was absolutely necessary. For now, it is our firm view that the deployment of our security forces, working together with communities and social partners across the country, will be able to restore order and prevent further violence.”
Ramaphosa assured the nation that there was no shortage of food or supplies in most parts of the country and called on citizens not to panic buy as that would only worsen the situation.
He said that the government was in the process of providing immediate food relief to households and that they were targeting areas affected by the looting and where people had no access to food, with Sassa using their remaining budget in the Social Relief of Distress programme to provide support in the form of food parcels, cash and food vouchers.
“To assist with the immediate needs of affected communities, the Solidarity Fund has established a Humanitarian Crisis Relief Fund to assist those in greatest need at this time. We are calling on all South Africans to support this fund,” he said.
He added that government would also help small businesses, including those in townships and rural areas, “to heal from the damage they have suffered”.
Ramaphosa also thanked those that had taken the initiative, through peaceful means, to restore calm and protect lives, property, and infrastructure.
“We thank all those people who have remained at their posts under difficult and dangerous conditions, providing services to our people and our nation – the law enforcement personnel, health care workers, social workers, security guards, municipal employees, and many other frontline public servants.”
He, though, said that the country was engaged in a struggle “to defend our democracy, our Constitution, our livelihoods and our safety”.
“This is not a battle that we can afford to lose,” he said.
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