Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Friday that 86 more people were under investigation the Hawks for last year’s violent civil unrest while 19 alleged instigators are out on bail.
Eight of them were arrested by the Hawks while the other 11 were nabbed by the special detective team that was created after the widespread looting and violence that erupted in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
During a justice, crime prevention and security cluster briefing in Pretoria on Friday, Cele said two of the cases had been withdrawn and all the other alleged instigators were out on bail. “Once you are on bail, it means there is a case that you need to answer to,” Cele added.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise said the cluster had been working tirelessly to ensure that incidents of looting, destruction of property and the disruption of the economy were not repeated.
She said since the unrest 8 000 incidents were reported to the police and at least 5 000 people have been arrested. Cases under investigation included those of incitement of public violence, murder, attempted murder, arson, malicious damage to public property, possession of suspected stolen property, damage to infrastructure and culpable homicide.
READ: July unrest | Lucky Lekgwathi on rebuilding Grootman after looting
Modise said more than 3 300 cases had been finalised through non-prosecution, with some being withdrawn in or before the suspects appeared in court. More than 2 900 cases were closed because of lack of evidence.
Cele said the SA Police Service (SAPS) would increase the capacity of the problem-oriented policing (POP) unit. Out of the 10 000 new police recruits, 4 000 would be taken to the POP unit.
“There are extra resources – money, equipment, and training – that will be put in the POP to ensure that we are able to better respond [to crime situations]. This will include the training at the [police] station level and offer refresher courses within the POP.”
Cele said the police had thwarted a number of threats since the July unrest such as “the call for a shutdown” in August last year. The police responded, and the shutdown was stopped, he said.
He said the fact that the alleged instigators were granted bail after appearing in court showed that there was progress regarding the arrests.
Modise said the cluster was allowing the country’s justice system to do its work but also looking at how strong the investigation and prosecution teams are.
“We are aware that the economy has not been doing quite well and that Eskom has had its issues as well as the issues around energy security have not only affected private businesses but also private homes.”
Modise urged people to refrain from taking the law into their own hands given the conditions of the economy of the country.
“We are aware of the pressures affecting South African household and the individuals. What we are saying is that whatever the pressures that the individuals are experiencing because of the non-performance of the economy and conditions, that should not give people an excuse to take the law into their own hands.
READ: July unrest: How I bore witness to history being written
“We are aware that people will try to use every problem experienced by South Africa to further their own agendas,” Modise said.
She said government was not ignoring issues of unemployment, young people trying to find their spaces in the economy, violence against women and girls and the price of fuel.
“[We] are finding ways to deal with these issues by criticising ourselves on what our weaknesses are and where we need to change”.
Modise said government would address these issues in due course.