There was an “element of organisation” behind the mass looting that took place during the July unrest last year, an expert panel appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa has found.
Ramaphosa appointed the panel in August last year to review the government’s response to the unrest, which was sparked by former President Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment. Its members included Prof Sandy Africa (chairperson), Adv Mojanku Gumbi and Mr Silumko Sokupa.
“The submissions we received point to elements of organisation behind the looting of the malls, combined with opportunistic looting,” the panel said in its report released on Monday (7 February).
“We also received submissions that some of the attacks were planned in hostels. It is clear that the planners wanted the looting to look like they were spontaneous; a phenomenon that we have coined ‘organised spontaneity.’
“Community members informed church leaders of impending attacks. Some in the media fraternity received tip-offs. Instigators were seen on security cameras moving around from mall to mall in vehicles.”
According to the panel, agitation for violence in Gauteng originated from KwaZulu-Natal. “In some instances, agitators travelled in mini-buses from KZN to Gauteng and those mini-buses were seen going from mall to mall,” it added.
The panel found that although the police failed to stop the July unrest and looting, “the reasons for
this failure are complex and sometimes not of their making.”
The police were overwhelmed by the large number of looters, who included people carrying babies, and did not get intelligence in some instances to plan their operations. They were also inadequately equipped and ran out of crowd control equipment.
Furthermore, the suspension of six Crime Intelligence senior officials in the lead up to the unrest contributed to police incapacity, the panel added.
“Input that we received from a forensic expert [indicated] that the riots bore the hallmarks of a group of people being behind the organisation thereof, using technology as the primary mode of organisation,” the panel said.
“The methods employed took the police by surprise and they were unable to adapt their tactics to the situation facing them.”
The panel recommended the strengthening of the capacity of security services. It urged the government to urgently attend to the socio-economic challenges facing South Africa and the ANC to resolve its internal contradictions, which are “impacting negatively on governance matters.”
Download expert panel report on July unrest
To read or download the PDF expert panel’s report on the July unrest, click here.