By: Laura Peterjohn
MAIN IMAGE: A tweet posted by news outlet News24 showing police busy with anti-looting patrols. Source: Twitter @News24
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered the mobilisation of the entire South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to help with enforcing the country’s lockdown regulation – one of its largest deployments in its history.
On Tuesday, Ramaphosa informed parliament in a letter that in addition to the 3,000 troops already deployed for coronavirus duty, he had ordered that an additional 73,180 soldiers, including reservists, should be mobilised for a limited period. The decision, which places all soldiers on standby while a decision is made on how they will be deployed, will be in force until 26 June 2020, costing the nation R4.59 billion.
The president’s letter was tweeted to the public by opposition leader John Steenhuisen on Tuesday evening, just before the President addressed the nation on measures to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. There have been calls from ANC members of parliament for him to be sanctioned for breaking parliamentary rules.
The deployment of the army follows several reports of looting of grocery stores and liquor outlets taking place across the country.
In Bishop Lavis, a suburb of Cape Town, Checkers store delivery trucks were looted on Monday morning, reported Independent Online. Stones were reportedly thrown at 4 trucks, forcing them to a halt. Two of them had been delivering food relief parcels.
A major arterial road in the city, the R300, was closed by authorities several times this week as looters have stoned other delivery trucks and tried to force them to a halt, endangering other drivers and pedestrians
In Johannesburg, there have been reports of looting of vehicles carrying food parcels.
The SACP Gauteng second deputy secretary Sekete Moshoeshoe said in a statement his party was concerned that efforts to ensure that poor and vulnerable working class communities are cushioned during the lockdown were being “hijacked by opportunists who are diverting them for narrow selfish interests”.
Western Cape MEC for safety and security, Albert Fritz, has revealed that shop lootings took place in at least four areas on Tuesday, including the Cape Town suburbs of Manenberg, Sherwood Park, Nyanga Junction and Gatesville.
In a statement Fritz noted that a “humanitarian crisis” was unfolding because of the lockdown and it was “a struggle for many to put food on the table”. However, he said, “acts of criminality will not be tolerated”. He said he was engaging with the Cabinet on urgent solutions to address the spate of lootings.
Among several other incidents in the Western Cape this week, it was reported that a group attempting to overrun the Watergate Mall in Mitchells Plain were stopped, but looters managed to take goods from an Elsies River supermarket valued at over R3,000. Four people were arrested in this incident.
In another incident, in Delft South, about 50 people reportedly stormed a different supermarket, taking goods valued at around R4 000.
In Vredenburg on the West Coast, between 300 and 400 residents of Witteklip reportedly threw stones at the police who had stopped them from storming a local spaza shop. They had complained about not getting food parcels. Four people were arrested.
Fears of looting have caused some shop owners to clear their stores. DispatchLIVE reported that in the Cape Town suburb of Delft, shop owners had evacuated shops in the face of the risk from looters.