President Cyril Ramaphosa says there is a danger that the violence and destruction taking place will lead to an even greater surge in COVID-19 infections, putting more lives at risk and placing a greater burden on the health facilities and personnel.

The President was addressing the nation this evening on the violence and looting that has hit some of the South African provinces.

Crowds of people have been looting shops and malls in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

There has also been torching of trucks, stoning of cars, and the destruction of other key infrastructure.

“This violence and destruction takes place in the midst of a devastating pandemic. 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,” says the President.

Businesses in some parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces continue to bear the brunt of sporadic looting

Ramaphosa says many South Africans have refused to be mobilised along ethnic lines and the looting has now deteriorated into pure criminality.

The army has been deployed to assist the police. The President says ordinary people – including those who own businesses – have been badly affected by the looting and some people have died in the violence. President Ramaphosa says the poor and marginalised are hardest hit by the violence and looting.

“Let me be clear: we will take action to protect every person in this country against the threat of violence, intimidation, theft, and looting. We will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute those who perpetrate these actions and will ensure that they face the full might of our law.”

He says the national security council, which he chairs, will be meeting twice a day to address the unrest. The President says those guilty of criminality will face the full might of the law

In terms of Section 201(2)(a) of the Constitution, the President may authorise the deployment of the national defence force in cooperation with the police service and must inform Parliament of such employment.

Social media posts

South Africans have also been urged to refrain from posting inflammatory messages on social media amid the massive looting and violence.

“We should refrain from posting and circulating inflammatory messages on social media, and from spreading rumours or false reports that may create further panic among our people.   No-one should take the law into their own hands.”

The full address by the President is in the video below:

The full President’s speech is below: