Last week's wave of unrest and massive looting all across South Africa, which has left 212 people dead and 2,524 under arrest, was an “attempted insurrection” which “has failed” to achieve its goals, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Friday.
This insurrection attempt has failed to gain popular support. It has failed because of the efforts of our security forces and it has failed because South Africans have risen to defend our hard-won democracy, said the president in a broadcast message.
According to Ramaphosa, it is now clear that the events of last week were nothing more than a deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on South African democracy.
Using the pretext of a political claim, those behind these acts sought to provoke a popular insurrection. They sought to exploit the economic and social conditions under which South Africans live - which have worsened since the coronavirus pandemic - to provoke citizens ordinary and criminal networks to engage in acts of opportunistic looting, the president stressed.
The ensuing chaos was used as a smokescreen to carry out economic sabotage, he added, although he admitted that the Government was poorly prepared to face an orchestrated campaign of public violence, destruction and sabotage of this nature.
Ramaphosa pointed out that the damages were significant moneywise and that cases of covid-19 would surely arise in the coming weeks.
We will find those who instigated this violence. They will be held accountable for their actions. We will not allow anyone to destabilize our country and get away with it, the president insisted, as he urged South Africans to use Sunday's Nelson Mandela Day celebration to bring food to the needy and clean the streets.
The arrest on July 9 of former President Jacob Zuma (2009-2018) for judicial contempt after he repeatedly refused to testify in cases of corruption sparked the incidents. In the following days, unrest spread throughout the nation and turned into a chaotic wave of riots and mass looting, with mobs rampaging through shopping malls and stores, burning buildings and vehicles, and cutting off roads and streets.
The outbreak of violence was thus fueled by pre-existing social problems, such as extreme inequality, unemployment, high levels of general crime in the country and the malaise over the covid-19 pandemic.
According to local media, those behind the incidents are former spies and militarized anti-apartheid veterans related to Zuma.