Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
13 Jul 2021
11:05 am

Bheki Cele rears his head: Looting, lawlessness will not get worse

Nica Richards

Should protests continue, the country’s economy cannot hope to prosper, and food and fuel security can't be guaranteed, police minister warns.

A police officer in the Pick n Pay at the Pan African Mall in Alexandria, Johannesburg after it was completely looted on 12 July 2021. Picture: Jacques Nelles

A total of 757 people had been arrested as of Tuesday morning in relation to widespread looting incidents in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. 

Ten people have lost their lives so far, four in KZN and six in Gauteng. 

ALSO READ: Gauteng residents wake up to more protests and burning buildings

Despite this, scenes of police at looting sites seems to be a minimal deterrent for those participating in the ongoing criminal activity. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele broke his silence on the looting incidents, which started at the weekend, on Tuesday morning during a security cluster briefing.

“The current situation on the ground is under strong surveillance and we will ensure that it does not deteriorate any further,” Cele said

Government said it was “confident” that “law-enforcement agencies are able to do their job effectively”. 

“We cannot allow anyone to make a mockery of our democratic state and we have instructed the law enforcement agencies to double their efforts to stop the violence and to increase deployment on the ground,” Cele said. 

During the briefing, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said that despite the lawlessness, the country had not yet reached the point of declaring a state of emergency.

ALSO READ: Sassa cash payment points suspended due to unrest

Unhappiness not a reason to loot 

Depsite protests being a constitutional right, this right comes with a responsibility not to endanger the rights of others, Cele said.

He said this responsibility had to be exercised, because “no amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalise and do as they please and break the law”. 

Cele said should protests continue, the country’s economy could not hope to prosper and food and fuel security could not be guaranteed. 

“We call for an immediate end to this violence, looting and the disregard of the law and call for an immediate return to peace and stability.”

In a bid to ensure the situation does not deteriorate, Cele said police on leave had been recalled to beef up boots on the ground. 

ALSO READ: Ongoing unrest will fuel another Covid infection spike

Four police officers have already been injured during the violent protests. 

Cele said the greatest risk of mass protests was the rapid spread of Covid-19, putting more pressure on an already struggling healthcare system. 

Community intervention

Cele said the security cluster was grateful to community members protecting fellow civilians, but also encouraged communities “not to take the law into their own hands” and to work with police. 

Private security companies were lauded for their efforts in assisting law enforcement. Cele said this would ensure better relations between police and security guards. 

The threat of running out of basic foodstuffs was now a tangible possibility should protests continue, Cele warned, something he said would be “disastrous for the country”. 

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