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Ramaphosa releases report of findings on July riots and looting

Nomazima Nkosi Senior reporter
Shops and businesses were looted in July last year following a wave of violent protests after the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma.
Shops and businesses were looted in July last year following a wave of violent protests after the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma.
Image: Darren Stewart

SA's security services failed to respond timeously to the July unrest that saw widespread looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

This was one of the findings of the report released by the expert panel on the July unrest.

On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the release of the report of the expert panel he appointed on August 5 to review the government’s response to the unrest. A spate of orchestrated public violence, destruction and sabotage took place over a week in July.

The panel was chaired by professor Sandy Africa and included advocate Mojankunyane Gumbi and Silumko Sokupa as members and Michael Sarjoo appointed as secretary

Their job was to inquire into and make findings on whether the government’s response to the 2021 unrest and associated security threat was appropriate, timely and co-ordinated. 

In the report, the panel wrote: “Mr. President, you asked us to determine whether the response by the security services was timeous, appropriate and sufficient. The answer to that, in respect of the police and the intelligence services, is an unequivocal no.

“Many reasons were proffered for this failure, but in the end the response remains that they failed to do the necessary to protect life, limb and property.”

The unrest left 354 people dead and more than R50bn lost to the economy by malls being set alight and delivery trucks torched along the N3.

Africa also wrote there was a worry that the violence left behind a sense of uncertainty and vulnerability because of the ineffective response of the security services and an appetite for lawlessness by those who might feel emboldened by the apparent lack of state capacity.

“Perhaps the most significant input made, which we heard several times, was that what appears to be factional battles in the ANC have become a serious source of instability in the country. This is a matter of great concern, and the reasons for this need to be identified sooner rather than later.

“For their part, the security services are uncertain about how to effectively address this convergence of violent criminal conduct with mainstream politics, given the correct posture taken by the country to ensure that political activity stays free of state security interference,” Africa wrote.

The panel found that police did not get any intelligence to plan operations. 

“It is not clear why this was so, but one of the reasons may be that at least six members of the senior leadership of [crime intelligence] were suspended in the period leading up to the outbreak of the violence. It would be difficult for an organisation that had been hollowed out in that manner to rise to the occasion in times of crisis.”

In a statement, the president's acting spokesperson Tyrone Seale said Ramaphosa welcomed the report, adding that he would outline actions the government would take in response to the findings at the State of the Nation Address.

“The panel was mandated to examine all aspects of the security response and to make recommendations on how to strengthen security capabilities,” Seale said.

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