A maximum of 2,500 South African National Defense Force (SANDF) soldiers will be used in “Operation PROSPER,” a deployment in response to widespread looting in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
The deployment was announced by Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, South African Defense Minister, by publication in the Government Gazette on Monday night. A legal requirement following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa during an address to the nation.
“As the Commander-in-Chief of the South African Defence Force, I have today authorised the deployment of Defence Force personnel in support of the operations of the South African Police Service,” said Ramaphosa.
This is an effort to “[mobilise] all available resources and capabilities to restore order”, he said.
“Notice is hereby given under section 19(2) of the Defence Act, 2002, that the President acting in terms of section 201(2)(a) of the Constitution, authorised the employment of 2500 members of the South African National Defence Force enrolled in terms of sections 52 and 53 of the Defence Act,” reads the gazette announcement by Mapisa-Nqakula.
The troops will be deployed “for service in cooperation with the South African Police Service for the prevention and combating of crime and maintenance and preservation of law and order in the Republic of South Africa for Operation PROSPER.”
The authority for their deployment is valid for three months, until October 2021.
Last year, 76,000 military personnel were deployed to enforce level 5 lockdown regulations during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. A far cry from the 2,500 currently deployed.
However, the SANDF could deploy more soldiers as the need arises, saying that the actual “duration and number of deploying soldiers will be determined based on the assessment of the situation on the ground by the relevant law enforcement agencies.”
An Estimated R2-Billion Lost
The army has been deployed to help police quell the widespread unrest – rioting and looting – that has seen 10 people killed and almost 500 arrested.
According to Business Tech, more than 200 shopping malls had been looted by mid-Monday afternoon, with retailers losing an estimated R2-billion ($137-million).
Companies have been closing branches across the country in efforts to protect themselves from roaming mobs of looters.
News24 reported yesterday that South Africa’s four largest lenders all halted operations, led by Standard Bank and FNB. Game and Makro stores, both owned by Massmart, have been closed for the time being.
Dis-Chem and Clicks have also shut doors in KwaZulu-Natal, preventing people from receiving vaccinations or COVID-19 tests.
Zuma Jailing Sparks Violence
The violent rioting and looting began in earnest after former President Jacob Zuma was taken into custody on 7 July to begin his 15-month prison sentence after being found in contempt of court.
The resulting turmoil has highlighted divisions within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the tenuous hold Ramaphosa has over the party.
Members of the Zuma family have since endorsed the violence on social media, as has his foundation, which continues to decry his conviction.
“What is going on is sedition. It is a direct attack on the authority of the state. It is fueled by the very powerful people within the ANC who are about to be sidelined,” said Mary de Haas, a violence researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s law school, quoted by Business Tech.
These ‘powerful people’ “are using the language of incitement to get people to loot businesses,” she said.