#UnrestSA: Mbalula slams 'celebrities of violence'

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and WC Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and WC Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell
Jenni Evans
  • Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has hit out at "celebrities of violence". 
  • He said poor people were being used to make the country appear to be in flames.
  • He said the authorities had not expected the protests to escalate into devastating looting. 

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula slammed "celebrities of violence" for stoking unrest in the country after the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma. 

"Those on Twitter and everywhere else who have been celebrities of violence - the law must deal with them," Mbalula said in Cape Town on Friday.

"Let the law bite on those who have been in the forefront."

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting to stop taxi shootings, Mbalula said innocent poor people had been drawn into the fray with the enticement of being able to grab some food or household objects for themselves. 

READ | Ramaphosa concedes government could have done better and acted quicker to quell the unrest

"In fact, I am certain that they are well off wherever they are," he said of the people inciting violence. 

Since last Friday, blockades quickly escalated into burning of trucks and then looting, which was first seemingly associated with the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court. 

Major national transport routes were closed, hampering the movement of people, goods and food.

"For them to use the name of [former] president Zuma, to promote anarchy in our country, it is shameful," said Mbalula.

"We will stand against anarchy and law disobedience and threatening of judges. 

This country is not a banana republic. We will stand up in its defence and ensure that we bring about law and order in the country.

Since Zuma was jailed for contempt of court last Thursday, some Twitter accounts have posted messages of support for the violence and looting.

Mbalula said they had not expected the initial protests to escalate into the scale of the looting eventually seen in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. 

"It's because we deal with protest [violence] every day, but we didn't think that the protest of this nature would degenerate into something like this," he said. 

'Responsible citizenship'

Mbalula said the taxi conflict in the Western Cape, if not handled carefully, had the potential to spiral out of control and possible ignite associated unrest. 

He said all it took was for a group of instigators to encourage one group of people to loot a shop for food. 

"The criminal element knows that this is an opportunity to loot a warehouse, this is an opportunity to loot this and that. 

READ | Police arrest one alleged instigator of unrest, others under surveillance

"That's why when you see the looting going on - people looting big screens but they can't even fit it in a shack - you know, big double beds, they know they can't house them in a shack. 

"All sorts of things, they loot. Fridges, all of that, they loot things that are of no use to them.

 "At the end of the day we've got to bring law and order. We cannot allow lawlessness to go on and reign. Then South Africa becomes a banana republic."

He praised taxi operators who have decided to prevent looting in the interests of protecting livelihoods. 

'It is not vigilantism. It is an act of citizenship - responsible citizenship". 

SANDF deployed in Western Cape

While the Western Cape has been spared the looting and violence seen in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, at least 80 people have been shot dead in a deadly taxi route dispute. 

The B37 route from Paarl may be suspended if operators do not restore peace for the commuters and drivers. 

READ | Taxi industry steps forward in clean-up drives across KZN

Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell gazetted a notice of his intention to close the route, and bring in other operators, until Cata and Codeta find some middle ground. 

Mbalula said commuters would suffer the most.

But besides [this], we know that the taxis that are going to be affected by this are going to start shooting everything that is operating in their absence.

"That is why we emphasise the rule of law," he said.

SA National Defence Force soldiers are due to arrive in Cape Town later on Friday to maintain order, according to a statement by Premier Alan Winde. 

While not specifically stating that they will prevent unrest, it is expected that they will assist with the monitoring the police and other provincial authorities and volunteers have been conducting, and this could include monitoring for possible taxi shootings. 

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