SUMMARY REPORT OF THE EXPERT PANEL INTO THE JULY 2021 CIVIL UNREST

Preamble

President Ramaphosa on 7 February 2022 authorised the release of the report of the expert panel appointed to probe the civil unrest in parts of Gauteng and KZN in July 2021. The panel interviewed a wide range of stakeholders and role players, from business, religious and civic organisations to law enforcement agencies and the media. Below are salient points of the 154- page report, whose recommendations the President could provide further clarity on
government’s response when he presents the State of the Nation Address on 10

February 2022. Key Findings:

  • The violence, destruction and looting between 8 and 17 July 2021 in parts of KZN and Gauteng resulted in 354 deaths and estimated cost of damage and destruction to the economy of about R50 billion
  • The violence can be viewed in the context of multiple crises and challenges facing South Africa, key among them being: the weakness of State institutions generally, a phenomenon that has been referred to as the hollowing out of State institutions; high unemployment, with youth unemployment above 70% and no consistent, continuous plan to address this challenge; inherited high levels of poverty and deep inequality; poor spatial planning, leading to overcrowded and unsuitable living conditions for many, with informal settlements emerging in crowded urban spaces as people move to the cities in search of opportunities; rampant corruption at various levels of government; the phenomenon of sponsored State Capture, as understood in the South African context; the frustrations caused by the Covid-19 restrictions, adding to the feelings of despair among the population
  • Responses to the violence in some communities exposed deep-seated racial prejudices and tensions indicating that there is much to be done to achieve racial justice and greater social cohesion
  • There is belief that the security services are understaffed and under-resourced and are therefore thinly spread on the ground. Several experts and think tanks argued that there are inefficiencies within the security services that if addressed could certainly go a long way in overcoming the resource constraints, as would smart partnerships with the private sector, and more effective community engagement
  • Neither the politicians nor the security services anticipated that the violence would take the form that it did, that is looting and destruction of malls, warehouses and other suppliers in the food value chain. This may be because this was a partly organised but partly spontaneous occurrence. However, the failure of reliable intelligence on this points to the urgent need to implement the recommendations of the High Level Review Panel on the State Security Agency (SSA). The possibility that the faceless people behind this attack on the State were aware of the weaknesses of the security 48 services makes the task of rebuilding a credible and professional intelligence service even more urgent. The intelligence services failed to predict the nature, scale and modus operandi of the July violence
  • The national and provincial governments and most elements of civil society believe that there was a major failure of intelligence with regard to the July incidents. The intelligence community, on the other hand, believes it had given sufficient warning, at least of the levels of dissatisfaction among the population, and the dangers and possible consequences thereof
  • The Minister and the National Commissioner are poles apart in their interpretation of how the events of July could have been managed, if at all. This is a matter of concern, as it narrows the grounds for consensus within the senior leadership of the police on what needs to be corrected going forward, and of who is to be held accountable for the failure to prevent the loss of life and the destruction of property that occurred.

Observations from organised business:

  • Business believed the response of the State had been woefully inadequate
  • They base this statement on the following: security personnel were reactive and slow, and not trained for crowd control; the state had demonstrated vulnerability and indecisiveness; the lack of capacity in the state to distribute emergency aid, resulted in aid to SMME’s and some employees not being distributed to date; the riots seriously impacted investor confidence and the lack of cohesive government response, even 3 months later, made it difficult to explain what happened to shareholders and investors and Government’s unwillingness to take responsibility and be held accountable was further eroding confidence

General Recommendations:

  • Cabinet must take overall responsibility for the events of July 2021. It must drive a national response plan that demonstrates its own willingness to be held accountable, and to hold the public office bearers who failed in their responsibilities to account. It must give regular feedback on what is happening to ensure that those who planned and instigated the violence are being brought to book
  • Government should pay close attention to the issues of poverty, underdevelopment and inequality. There does not seem to exist a clear plan, with budgets and a timetable, to effectively address this matter. If one adds the general unhappiness with corruption within the ruling party, what happened in July will definitely happen again if these matters are not addressed
  • The panel stressed the urgent need to build an equal, inclusive and just society, if there is to be lasting peace and stability
  • The capacity of the security services needs to be strengthened to respond effectively to all situations. The security services must use all the lawful levers available to them, in particular the need to intercept communications, in a lawful manner, where the security of the State is at stake. They need to strengthen their technological capacity as well
  • The executive also needs to be better coordinated and aligned, and the National Security Council, must take the lead in security policy coordination
  • Most important of all, government, at all levels, must seriously attend to the socio- economic challenges facing the country. There is overall “profound frustration” from, in particular the civil society, business and security sector delegations that the government is not paying sufficient attention to this matter. In addition, the internal contradictions within the ANC are impacting negatively on governance matters and need to be resolved
  • A national early warning capability must be established to ensure accurate and timely intelligence is provided to the government on an ongoing basis. The multiplicity of intelligence coordinating structures must be rationalised
  • The matter of what constitutes ‘critical infrastructure’ or National Key Points needs to be reviewed. In spite of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act having only recently been promulgated, a question should be asked if its coverage is wide enough. For example, the Transnet oil pipeline is not a National Key Point, only certain parts are. The private sector raised the matter of key contributors to the food production value chain in the country. Should they not be considered for this category? Likewise, the supply and distribution of critical medical supplies, some of which ran out during the riots. The proposal is that in line with new realities of what keeps nations together, the matter of what is regarded as ‘critical infrastructure, or National Key Points should be revisited.
  • The legislative framework governing the appointment of the National Police Commissioner needs to be revisited to address the issues causing the current tension between the Minister of Police and the National Commissioner, which in turn is affecting effective policing and management of SAPS. Policy pronouncements on the responsibilities and powers of the police needs to be streamlined, and communicated clearly to police officers. With inconsistent and sometimes conflicting messages coming from the Minister and National Commissioner it becomes very difficult for police to know whether, when faced with volatile situations, they can act firmly or not

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