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Operation PROSPER launched in South Africa

By Jan Vermeulen

The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, announced in the Government Gazette that 2,500 troops would be deployed to help police bring rioting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng under control.

Dubbed Operation PROSPER, the deployment will be from 12 July to 12 October 2021.

The troop deployment aims “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”.

Mapisa-Nqakula’s notice in the Gazette follows an address by President Cyril Ramaphosa last night in which he outlined the government’s strategy for dealing with widespread looting and violence in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.

Ramaphosa warned that South Africa could soon face a risk of food insecurity and medication insecurity.

“These disruptions will cost lives by cutting off the supply chains that sustain our food, health and production systems,” he said.

In addition, Ramaphosa said that South Africa’s vaccination programme is being severely disrupted just as it is gaining momentum.

He said that the acting Minister of Health, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, informed him that they had to stop the vaccination programme in several places in the country.

“We cannot allow this to happen. We will not allow this to happen,” Ramaphosa said.

“There is a danger that these events will lead to an even greater surge in infections, putting many more lives at risk and placing a greater burden on our health facilities and personnel.”

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

Ramaphosa said it was critical to restore calm and stability to all parts of the country without delay.

“The South African Police Service is putting measures in place to call up operational members from leave and rest-days to increase the presence of law enforcement personnel on the ground,” the president said

“The Natjoints [National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure] is receiving support from the Intelligence Coordinating Committee, comprising of SAPS Crime Intelligence, Defence Intelligence and State Security.”

In addition to greater visibility and an intelligence-driven presence in potential hotspots, Ramaphosa said they would prioritise the prosecution of suspects alleged to be involved in the violence.

Ramaphosa added that the National Security Council would also be meeting twice a day to coordinate all measures necessary to restore stability.

The military deployment comes as protests following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma spiralled out of control over the weekend.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison after being found in contempt by the Constitutional Court for failing to testify before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

Zuma’s allies called on people to shut down the country. Shortly thereafter, protesters started blocking various major roads in Zuma’s home province.

This quickly escalated to cars being pelted with rocks and numerous trucks being set alight.

Over the weekend and into Monday, residents plundered stores for groceries, electronics, liquor and other general goods and set fire to malls and businesses.

Stores in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, and other areas in KwaZulu-Natal were attacked and looted.

Several businesses and shopping centres in Gauteng, including Alexandra, Hillbrow, Jeppestown, and Vosloorus, were also targeted.

More than 200 people had been arrested by 8:30 on Monday morning. By Monday evening, this had climbed to nearly 500 arrests.

Ramaphosa said 166 suspects had been arrested in KwaZulu-Natal, while 323 suspects were arrested in Gauteng.

Private security companies, business owners, and community members have also started to fight back against the looters in certain areas in KwaZulu-Natal.

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