Police were overwhelmed during July unrest: Makhura

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Gauteng Premier David Makhura has echoed the sentiments of other witnesses before the South Africa Human Rights Commission that the police were overwhelmed during the July civil unrest.

Makhura is testifying before the commission which is investigating the widespread violence and looting that broke out in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

The unrest claimed the lives of over 350 people in the two provinces.

Makhura has told the commission that messages that were circulating on social media helped them in preparing to deal with the unrest. He says the deployment of the South African National Defence Force members helped to restore calm.

“I  must comment that in many of these areas, it is citizens who came to the fore because police were completely overwhelmed. I think it is quite clear to us that even though there were assurances from the police, in our province, I must say there were lots of assurances from the police, that they will be able to deal with the situation but when we reached particularly Monday, it was clear that the police were overwhelmed. They also reported to us that some of the public order policing members have been sent to KwaZulu-Natal to go and help.”

Live proceedings of the commission: 

No prior warnings

Earlier on Friday the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala described the riots that occurred in the province in July as an embarrassment.

Giving testimony at the hearing, Zikalala said the province did not receive any prior warnings from state security agencies on the impending massive unrest. He told the commission that his office relied on social media messages that warned of a planned shutdown.

The riots spread from KZN to Gauteng after the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma. It began with the looting and torching of over 20 trucks on the N3 Mooi River Toll Plaza in KZN.

Zikalala told the commission that on the 11th of July following the torching of trucks he pleaded with the President to deploy the army to restore order.

The Premier also highlighted to the commission that the police and the army were poorly coordinated and lacked synergy.  He added that there appeared to have been no adequate equipment to deal with the situation.

The commission is expected to also hear testimony from Defence Minister Thandi Modise later today.