No plans for state of emergency, says security cluster

The government’s security cluster has quashed talk of a state of emergency and defended its information-gathering work, saying it had averted greater levels of pillaging than those ravaging parts of the country. 

Images of looters plundering stores were flighted on news channels even as the briefing, headed by the ministers in the justice, crime prevention and security cluster, took place on Tuesday. 

State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said even before the rioting and looting started in KwaZulu-Natal over the weekend, the State Security Agency (SSA) had had discussions with the police service. Dlodlo said “only so much” could be done with the information gathered, analysed, packaged and handed over to police.

“The target was very fast moving. We tried our best wherever we could and we averted a lot more than what you see on national television because of the proactive stance that was taken by [the] intelligent services of the three ministries, but also the work that was done by the police in averting greater crime that could have occured in that time,” Dlodlo said.

“So, we were not missing in action as the SSA, and I dare say even the police were not missing in action. We tried our level best under a very difficult situation.”

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the government would not consider implementing a state of emergency just yet because this would remove many civil liberties.

“For now, I don’t think that there is an indication that there should be a state of emergency. When the time comes, informed by intelligence gathered and coordinated by the three entities [SSA, police crime intelligence and defence intelligence], then the president … would declare a state of emergency, if the need arises based on that assessment report,” she said.

General Siphiwe Sangweni said the military’s deployment depended on the needs of the police, because the army’s role in the country is to assist with ensuring peace and security. 

Sangweni said the South African National Defence Force relied on information from the police, sanctioned by President Cyril Ramaphosa, to move into an area. 

“It might happen that that call is made after there have been uncalled activities, but it will not be not correct that the military is seen to be in the forefront in terms of law enforcement and dealing with criminality in the country,” he said. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele welcomed the deployment of the military “in supplementing the capacity of the South African police in protecting the infrastructure and other operations”. 

He said the latest figures indicated that 757 people had been arrested, 304 of them in KwaZulu-Natal and 453 in Gauteng.

“Of concern is the loss of life that has accompanied incidents of violence and destruction to property. The total number of fatalities that have been reported is 10, with four in KwaZulu-Natal and six in Gauteng,” Cele said, adding that four officers had been injured, but were “recovering well”.

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