Police prepare for violence and unrest in South Africa

A new report revealed that the South African Police are concerned about unrest, violence, and boycotts in some parts of the country as the general elections loom.

City Press reported that an SA Police Service crime intelligence unit warns of numerous direct and indirect risks.

A direct risk is truckers blocking key routes. They demand that foreign drivers not be allowed to work in South Africa.

The report also highlighted specific areas which may be targeted, including parts of KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and North West.

It warned that many communities threaten to use the upcoming elections to protest poor service delivery.

Another concern is that police station armouries in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and the Western Cape could be targeted by protestors who want to steal guns.

The South African police’s crime intelligence report aligns with warnings from the business and finance community.

BMI’s associate director of operational risk, Derrick Botha, said South Africa’s upcoming elections pose the greatest risk for political violence since the advent of democracy.

The risk is largely heightened by newcomer uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the party led by former President Jacob Zuma.

If the MK Party does not accept the outcome of May’s elections, this could lead to mass unrest across South Africa, similar to the July riots in 2021.

Zuma’s imprisonment for contempt of court was the immediate cause of the July riots, and the unrest was concentrated in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

What began as protests in support of Zuma quickly spiralled into wider riots and looting, as underlying economic grievances played a part.

Botha said these riots showed the willingness of many Zuma supporters to resort to violence.

Therefore, this willingness could again be showcased if the former President’s party does not accept the election results this year.

Dawie Roodt
Economist Dawie Roodt

Award-winning economist Dawie Roodt is concerned about violence and unrest in South Africa amidst a political transition period.

Roodt said South Africa has very high levels of unemployment, rising poverty, and a growing number of people who go to bed hungry.

There are also around 28 million people who rely on the government’s social grants every month to survive.

“These grants are becoming less valuable because of high inflation. That means the social grants’ value is declining in real terms,” he said.

South Africa’s society is already very polarised, and the uncertainty surrounding the elections creates a volatile mix.

Some political leaders’ unrealistic promises and divisive rhetoric to gain votes add fuel to the fire.

He referenced Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s promise that if the ANC wins the elections, everyone could immediately go to private hospitals.

“Imagine a hundred people going to a private hospital, and there is a confrontation with private security. There are many other examples,” Roodt said.

“All these factors put pressure on the society, and I am very concerned about the possibility of violence,” Roodt said.

He said in a worst-case scenario, there could be a repeat of the violence and looting experienced in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng in July 2021.

“There can be a spark that sets the whole thing in motion. That is what I am concerned about,” he said.

“The unrest can pick up momentum because of the underlying factors, like unemployment and poverty. These forces can drive violence in South Africa.”

General Roland de Vries

Former deputy chief of the South African Army, General Roland de Vries, warned that any trigger event around the elections could cause unrest and violence, similar to the July 2021 riots.

De Vries told Biznews that many trigger events can cause the state to lose control in specific areas, which could lead to anarchy in these areas.

He explained that the high youth unemployment, households struggling financially, and increased absolute poverty have created a dangerous environment.

“If the state finances collapsed, where it could no longer pay social grants, there will be havoc in South Africa,” he said.

This is not the only scenario that could trigger unrest and violence. Many other events, especially around the elections, could also lead to problems.

De Vries warned that the government is not well equipped to deal with these situations, which could lead to anarchy.

“Anarchy could erupt in small areas of the country and spread to create a dangerous situation in larger parts,” he said.

He said one of the major threats is criminal elements closing major roads, like the N3, preventing food from being distributed throughout the country.

“The problem in South Africa is not food security. It is when the roads are closed and stops the food from reaching people,” he said.

It is the government’s responsibility to contain outbreaks of violence. However, it may not be equipped to deal with these events.

“I am concerned about the state’s capability of pre-empting, preventing, or containing such threats,” De Vries said.

“I doubt the state can contain such threats and stabilize the environment quickly to prevent it from spreading.”


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