The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes President Ramaphosa’s broadcast announcement tonight on the escalating crisis in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and other parts of South Africa.

However, very little in his address offered anything new or significant in terms of measures to curb the violence, looting and destruction of property. There were no details, for example, of the SANDF deployment, such as numbers of troops and where they are to be deployed, as well as no details on any progress from Crime Intelligence.

In short, it was clear that the President and his government have no real plan and that citizens will have to face the mobs of rioters and looters entirely on their own.

Our country is literally burning, many South Africans have lost everything they had to the looters, and thousands of jobs have been laid to waste. We needed a strong statement of action tonight, but instead we simply got more of the platitudes that this presidency has become known for.

The DA supports, in principle, all efforts to bring the violence under control and re-establish law and order. The situation was allowed to reach this point precisely because our law enforcement agencies failed to take control early on and do their jobs. Of critical importance right now is that law enforcement regain control of the situation, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, but also elsewhere in South Africa. They need to do the job that the Constitution demands of them.

Because the violence and looting is so widespread, this means targeting our law enforcement resources exactly where they are needed to disrupt large gatherings of rioters. This calls for a coordination of Defence Intelligence, Crime Intelligence and State Security. Our forces on the ground cannot just fly blind and react to sporadic incidents.

It is also imperative that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is supported in its actual law enforcement efforts by the South African Defence Force (SANDF), and that the latter is not merely deployed to guard National Key Points in the province, as was the case this evening still in KZN. Our Constitution allows for the army to assist the police in maintaining law and order, and this is what is required of them now.

President Ramaphosa needs to acquaint himself fully with the situation on the ground, and then direct resources where they are needed most. If he did this he would know that the SANDF cannot simply be deployed as glorified guards. They need to support the SAPS law enforcement operation.

What the President also should have announced tonight was the immediate reconvening of Parliament so that it can start doing its job within 24 hours. It is quite extraordinary that this has not been a priority for him.

Particular focus should also be given to the protection of healthcare facilities and the supply of oxygen to Covid wards in violence-affected areas. As the country battles the third wave of a deadly pandemic, it is critical that we continue to take care of the sick and the vulnerable.

The reality is that South Africans would have come away from tonight’s address with nothing new, and nothing to ease their minds For many thousands of men and women this will be a frightening night ahead of them, and they would have wanted the President to offer them something in the way of leadership and reassurance.

The DA calls on President Ramaphosa to stand up for the law-abiding citizens of this country and meet these looters and thugs with strong decisive action, and a real plan to protect them from the damage of the ANC’s ongoing internal war.

We call on all South Africans to stay safe tonight and to protect their families and property, but also to remain calm and measured in these efforts. We dare not legitimise unnecessary violence, even in the most extreme circumstances. We dare not lose our humanity in this crisis.

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John Steenhuisen

John Steenhuisen is federal leader of the Democratic Alliance, opposition party of the Republic of South Africa.

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