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"I was troubled by food items recovered from looters' homes during July riots" - Ramaphosa

Isaac Mahlangu Senior reporter
President Cyril Ramaphosa says he was disturbed to see looters stealing food last year during the July riots.
President Cyril Ramaphosa says he was disturbed to see looters stealing food last year during the July riots.
Image: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa says he was troubled by the images of food being recovered from the homes of those who had looted shops during last year's July riots. 

Ramaphosa was giving evidence at the SA Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC) national investigative hearings into the July 2021 unrest which started in KwaZulu-Natal and spread to parts of Gauteng. 

The president said when food, which included oil and maize meal, was recovered with the intention of destroying the stolen items, that did not sit well with him.

"When I saw how they [police] were going from house to house, searching, finding bags of mealie meal, rice, cooking oil and all that, taking [it] out and seeking to arrest some of the people, that troubled me a great deal," Ramaphosa said.

He said even though looting was terrible, he was still not pleased. "As much as something really terrible had happened, when people have been exposed to this temptation of going out to loot, I was not pleased at all as we saw food taken from those places to be destroyed," he said.

Ramaphosa said he raised this issue with police minister Bheki Cele as he felt that it was wrong.

"I did discuss this with the minister of police and said this does not look good and doesn't land itself well," he said.

Ramaphosa said he told Cele that the focus needed to be on the instigators instead of those that "decided to go with the flow".

He reiterated his view that the July 2021 riots were an attempt at an insurrection, with tribalism "rearing its ugly head".

The panel aims to make findings, report on and make recommendations and/or directives concerning the causes of the July riots, the alleged racially motivated attacks and killings in the country and the causes of the apparent lapses in law enforcement by state security agencies.

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