JOHANNESBURG: The chief landowner in South Africa on Thursday described the ongoing looting and arson in the country as “the hallmarks of an attempted coup”? and called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to impose a total lockdown to remedy the situation.
The violence began last Wednesday after former President Jacob Zuma began serving his 15-month sentence in a contempt of court case.
The riots left 72 dead and more than 1,200 arrests.
Several factories and vital supply routes were torched in violence.
The protests began with a call for the release of Zuma, 79, from prison, but have now turned into massive looting and destruction of infrastructure.
Although President Cyril Ramaphosa has deployed the army and the police, they outnumber the rioters in many areas.
“When people destroy cell phone towers, when people detonate tanks and attack other infrastructure in the country, these are the hallmarks of a coup or attempted coup,” said Neil Gopal, CEO of the South African Landowners Association (SAPOA). Moneyweb news site.
“We have to go up to (the highest) level 5 (of the COVID-19 lockdown) because we were there last year; the plan is there.”
Crime rates were at zero.
âEveryone was in the house, the communities were in their homes, so we have to go back; and soldiers were deployed last year. So we can get there. It doesn’t make sense to call the military into a mall that has already been looted or set on fire. We need to prevent people from going to malls to cause all this destruction, âGopal said.
Gopal was speaking after SAPOA held a press conference on Thursday to elucidate some of the issues related to the ongoing looting and destruction of malls, retail stores and distribution centers.
SAPOA represents more than 800 organizations in the commercial real estate industry, with 90 percent of the country’s commercial real estate owned by association members.
SAPOA said more than 800 stores were looted and around 100 shopping centers were either burnt down or suffered significant damage from a fire.
A number of distribution centers, particularly in the port city of Ethekwini (formerly Durban) in KwaZulu-Natal Province (KZN), were looted, with severe structural destruction left behind by rampaging crowds who stripped everything. from ceilings to counters and, in many cases, installing buildings. a light.
The latest estimates put the losses at over R20 billion in the province, according to the eThekwini Economic Planning and Development Committee, which added that more than 50,000 informal traders have lost their livelihoods, around 1 , 5 million people have lost their earning potential and there 150,000 jobs are threatened.
Violent crowds raged for a seventh consecutive day, overwhelming police and soldiers who were deployed Monday night by Ramaphosa.
On Wednesday, the president announced that an additional 25,000 troops were to be deployed to support the 25,000 strategic installations that are already protecting and which, according to intelligence agencies, were initially targeted.
The army has already intervened to clean up burnt trucks and roadblocks set up on the arteries of the port city of Ethekwini, where 90 percent of South Africa‘s imports go inland.
There are already severe shortages of food and medicine in KZN and Gauteng provinces as people scramble to secure limited stocks in stores escaping looting.
Rioters have torched vehicles and factories, looted shops and blocked major city roads since Friday night in response to social media calls on the theme #FreeJacobZuma and #KZNShutdown.
Zuma began a 15-month sentence last week after the country’s supreme court found him in contempt of court for refusing to return to the State Capture Commission of Inquiry, where he was repeatedly accused of involvement in corruption by witnesses.
“We have seen violent incidents which from the start seemed to have occurred in response to the incarceration of former President Comrade Jacob Zuma, but which have now turned into an unprecedented and extremely worrying situation as it constitutes a threatens human life and carries the potential to destabilize our country at a time when we are all trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, “KZN Prime Minister Sihle Zikalala said earlier.