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#FreeZuma Protest, Looting and Criminal Activities

Updated: Jul 14

13 June 12h00

By Willie Viljoen, MD Africa Intelligence Solutions


Prof. Neethling makes a statement that really captures the spirit of it all:, “This would have been resolved much easier if the ANC were to act against opposition”.


The current situation in South Africa surrounding violent protests and looting of businesses is more concerning than usual. The Covid-19 pandemic, unemployment rate and current lockdown regulations are all large contributors.

Elements and factors that can act as a catalyst for revolution have been present in South Africa for the past few years. Although this is in no way the start of a revolution, there are some revolutionary factors present, according to Dr. Johan Burger.

Another element that fuels looting is the current unemployment rate that is in turn inflated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the current lockdown regulations. Prof. Theo Neetling mentioned in an interview with Gert van der Westhuizen from Network24 how striking it is that, although a lot of luxury goods are being looted, many looters are taking food, which is a strong indicator of the desperation and survival on the part of the looters.

It is always important to realise that although protest actions may start with a cause and purpose, protests in South Africa are very often hijacked by criminal elements who incite violence and looting for personal gain, riding on the back of the initial protest.


This can very easily have a snowball effect.


A socio-economic group that is commonly referred to as “Nyoape Boys” (referring to the Nyoape drug) consists of individuals from rural areas who almost never leave their immediate environment. To them, fighting for their physical survival is part of everyday life and they are most commonly involved in looting.

The solution to the current situation in the short term should take both physical and political factors into consideration. This is not a situation that will be remedied only by physical security forces trying to maintain peace and order on the ground. This is the result of ANC infighting and should be treated as a political crisis.


Prof. Neethling makes a statement that really captures the spirit of it all: “This would have been resolved much easier if the ANC were to act against opposition”.

The long-term solution to many protests, riots, and picketing in many African countries are exactly that: long term. They mostly involve the upliftment of communities, job creation and education to provide better socio-economic climates where it is needed.


The deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to aid the South African Police Service (SAPS) on the ground is a bold move from government. We have previously seen this in Alexandra during the Covid-19 State of Disaster.

The fact that the country is currently in a State of Disaster provides the government with easy access to deploy the SANDF to assist on the ground with situations that they are not readily trained for, as this is not their regular mandate. The SANDF is also facing financial strain that may affect the readiness of vital equipment to perform their duties.


This has proven disastrous in the past where civilians lost their lives at the hands of SANDF members who were later acquitted of any wrongdoing.

Darren Olivier Explains, SANDF soldiers deployed in co-operation with the SAPS have some policing powers, such as detaining suspects, but can't do things like arrest people without handing them over to the SAPS. All actions need to be co-ordinated with the SAPS via the regional PROVJOC.


It's likely that SANDF soldiers will be deployed away from the key areas of violence, doing things like patrols & roadblocks in order to free up SAPS officers for anti-riot duties. This is the correct approach, as mostly the SANDF lacks anti-riot gear or training. It's not the declaration of a State of Emergency, and as the press release says this does not represent the SANDF taking over from the SAPS as it legally may not do that. It's also unclear how many personnel will be deployed, though I would expect no more than 8000.


When deployed in co-operation with the SAPS they effectively have the same authority for the use of lethal force as SAPS officers do, though possibly with additional restrictions defined in their rules of engagement. Soldiers in this case are still allowed to shoot back in self defence, detain people, and so on. The point is not that they can do that, it's that ideally nobody wants soldiers being the ones to make those decisions in our cities instead of police.

Jasmine Opperman an analyst in the extremism and terrorism space is also concerned with the deployment of the SANDF.


"Military deployments in response to current wave of looting. Military deployments in response to domestic risks leaves me unconfortable. It reflects institutional weaknesses, ie SAPS, Crime Intelligence and SSA (civilian intelligence). Gangsterism in Western Cape, Covid-19 and now this. The SANDF is simply not in a position to deal with these matters, also taking into consideration budget cuts."


After President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday evening, 12 July 2021, it is clear that immediate and definite action will be taken by the security forces and that he is in support of communities that joined forces to prevent looting and damage to properties. He noted with concern how the country’s vaccination rollout is being hampered by the rioters and looters, as many vaccination centres in affected areas were temporarily closed and the delivery of vaccines via affected highways has been halted.

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