Government implements interventions to prevent repeat of July 2021 unrest

Friday, July 8, 2022

Government has committed to strengthening the criminal justice system and employing more security personnel to improve safety measures, following the unrest and looting that engulfed the country last year.

Giving an update, on behalf of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster, a year since widespread violence, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, said government is also working with other countries, which have state-of-the-art criminal justice systems, to share their good practices.

“We will adapt our methods to make sure that we serve our country effectively. Over and above these measures, we call upon members of our community to join Community Policing Forums to fight crime and violence,” she pleaded.  

South Africa saw violent civil unrest in July 2021, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which wiped billions from the economy and led to 354 deaths.

“Working together with all South Africans, we are determined not to allow this tragic episode, which was characterised by widespread looting, wanton destruction of public and private infrastructure, as well as disruptions to economic activity, to repeat itself,” Modise stressed.  

To prevent the recurrence of the July unrest, the Minister said the cluster was working around the clock to implement the recommendations of the expert panel, led by Professor Sandy Africa, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

According to the Minister, the panel underlined some weaknesses, including the failure of the country’s State institutions to conduct timely risk assessments and forewarn the police and government of the impending violence.

In addition, the experts also found that the South African Police Service (SAPS) could not stop rioting and looting and control the huge crowds.

In the meantime, Modise said government would look at the revival of the Community Policing Forums (CPF) to further empower and maintain functional structures at the local policing precinct level.

To further capacitate the SAPS, she said the Basic Police Training and Development Programme for 10 000 trainees has already commenced, after two years of no training due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In December, these recruits will be deployed to various police stations to bolster the existing SAPS capacity,” she said.

In addition, she announced that the Public Order Police (POP) will receive an extra 4 000 members during this financial year. 

Meanwhile, the POP members and frontline officers, who are first responders, will continue to undergo refresher-training courses in crowd control management.

Additional funds have also been allocated to the modernisation of the POP unit, including procurement of armoured vehicles and aircrafts, while more money has been set aside for protective gear.

Government also plans to establish partnerships between the public and the police, and set up social cohesion and support programmes.

“Over the past year, the JCPS cluster has worked tirelessly to ensure that such incidents are avoided.”

In addition, Modise said qualified people have been appointed to leadership positions at the State Security Agency (SSA) to bring stability to the organisation, including full-time posts of the Director-General and all senior management.

Meanwhile, the Minister said the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has initiated several interventions aimed at facilitating reconciliation in Phoenix, Durban, where 35 people died.

The South African National Defence Force, according to Modise, continues to be on standby, in support of the SAPS, to protect all national key points as well as economic corridors of the country from any disruption.

She pleaded with citizens to refrain from sharing harmful and false information on social media platforms, which was used to mobilise people to take part in the 2021 unrest. –