#UnrestSA: Opposition parties in heated meeting with Ramaphosa over 'small' army deployment

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SANDF members patrol at streets and looted places in Soweto.
SANDF members patrol at streets and looted places in Soweto.
Shiraaz Mohamed/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Political parties met with Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss measures to address the unrest in KZN and Gauteng.
  • DA leader John Steenhuisen pleaded with Ramaphosa to send in more troops.
  • More than 70 people have died in the unrest.

Opposition parties are said to have slammed President Cyril Ramaphosa on the rationale behind the number of soldiers deployed to bring the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng under control.

On Wednesday, leaders of political parties met with Ramaphosa to discuss the unfolding unrest and had critical reservations on the deployment of the army.

Sources have told News24 that some leaders criticised Ramaphosa for only deploying 2 500 soldiers to assist police with the unrest, while more than 70 000 were dispatched to enforce lockdown regulations.

READ | Zizi Kodwa says 'experienced' people behind looting as residents stand to protect Soweto mall

A source close to the meeting told News24 the idea of a state of emergency was ruled out and deemed not "ideal" by other political party leaders.

All political party representatives took part in the virtual meeting, except the EFF.

"He [Malema] was not part of the meeting. And we did not discuss their (EFF) absence. Some people have a direct line to Ramaphosa, so they can talk to him at any given time," a source said.

According to a Presidency statement, Ramaphosa told the meeting that several areas of the country may soon be running short of basic provisions after the extensive disruption of food, fuel and medicine supply chains.

"Leaders urged that major transport routes be secured to allow fuel, food, medical supplies and other necessities to reach communities and that the 09:00-04:00 curfew be strictly enforced. The political leaders called for greater coordination among the police, the national defence force, intelligence agencies, private security services and community-based safety structures," the statement read.

As Ramaphosa welcomed proposals made by political leaders, he said the expanded deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was being addressed. 

READ | KZN sugar mills now shut, citrus exports halted as riots rage on

South Africa has been in the grip of violent looters and they have caused havoc in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) soldie
SANDF soldiers and police officers detain suspected looters at Jabulani Mall in Soweto.

More than 70 people have died, while thousands have been arrested as law enforcement and the SANDF scramble to stabilise the situation.

Another insider said Ramaphosa was told the ANC should be held accountable for the unrest.

The source said party members - like ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini - were preaching the opposite, demanding that people sign a petition to "Free Zuma" from prison.

Party leaders told Ramaphosa that such action from ANC members had to be looked into because the organisation was preaching parallel messages.

"The ANC is taking their responsibility. It's high time they call some of their members, who've been inciting the violence, to order. The party cannot lay back and pretend as though all members of their party are clean," the source said.

Meanwhile, DA leader John Steenhuisen was vocal about his suggestions to Ramaphosa.

Steenhuisen urged Ramaphosa to deploy more troops to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal as the violence, looting of shops and destruction of property continues.

"2 500 nationwide is not going to bring the situation under control. The reserve force needs to be deployed, the cost of this is insignificant when compared to the economic cost of the looting. It is essential that the security services regain the initiative, which has been completely lost in the last 48 hours," he said.

Steenhuisen said troops needed to patrol major arterial routes, so that trucks could deliver food, fuel and medicines.

"This is essential because the food distribution networks have been looted and burnt. Hunger is going to inflame an already volatile situation," he said.

READ HERE | #UnrestSA: Law enforcement agencies prioritise protection of vaccination sites

Steenhuisen added that police needed more rubber bullets, tear gas and other crowd control equipment.

He said officers should start monitoring WhatsApp groups and social media accounts to determine who is leading the looting and their plans.

DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone reiterated that Parliament had to be convened immediately.

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