FILE PHOTO: President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation on developments in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic PHOTO: GCIS

OPPOSITION parties said on Wednesday that the security cluster Ministers were slow to grasp the scope of the current riots in South Africa, leading to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s failure take drastic, pre-emptive measures against violence and rampant looting witnessed in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Ramaphosa met with leaders of opposition parties on Wednesday to discuss ways to address the ongoing unrest in South Africa.  

The leaders urged the president to put more troops on the streets.

In an interview with Inside Politics, United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader General Bantu Holomisa said the failure to respond adequately to the ongoing violence was the result of poor and ineffective intelligence collection, mainly due to a breakdown in communication between president Ramaphosa and the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPSC) Ministers.

The nation was totally unprepared, said Holomisa.  

“I don’t think the President was briefed properly by the security cluster ministers, particularly the State Security Minister [Ayanda Dlodlo]. If the president was briefed properly, he could have addressed the deployment of soldiers on Sunday evening. He didn’t do so because he had no information. If it was in another country, these Ministers would be out of office. They would have been chucked out.”

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Velenkosi Hlabisa said the country’s intelligence agencies leaves much to be desired.

“Even today you cannot see the soldiers on the streets despite additional 5 000 troops … The question is why did you send insufficient soldiers in the first in place. The intelligence of our country leaves a lot to be desired. If much was done as early as Sunday, the violence and the looting could have been stopped,” said Hlabisa.  

“The South African intelligence agencies are not up to speed and didn’t brief the President on time. The president was given wrong information and that’s why he made wrong decisions. The issue of the deployment of the army is needed in order to maintain law and order.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen said the country’s intelligence services are poor, complacent, and were caught napping in the face of a national threat to security.

“We didn’t point fingers at the meeting but I told the president we want to see troops on the streets and the restoration of law and order,” Steenhuisen told the SABC on Wednesday night.

“There is complacency within our intelligence agencies. You didn’t have to be James Bond to understand what was happening in the country.”

News24 reported on Wednesday that the controversial former head of the State Security Agency’s (SSA) rogue special operations unit, Thulani Dlomo, has been identified as a prime suspect being investigated for fomenting violent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal following the arrest of Zuma. 

Quoting three independent and highly placed sources, News24 reported that intelligence officials have told the police that Dlomo was a key person of interest in instigating the unrest that has rocked South Africa, led to the death of at least 45 citizens and destroyed businesses and jobs worth hundreds of millions of rands. 

But on Tuesday during a Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster briefing, Dlodlo hit back at the claims that the country’s intelligence service was caught off guard by the rampant looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

She said that SSA agents, working with the South African police, had averted “much more than was seen”.

“I want South Africans to rest assured that we did avert a lot. What you see is only a part of what could have happened. So, we were not missing in action as SSA and, I dare say, even the police were not missing in action. We tried our level best under a very difficult situation,” said Dlodlo.

She also confirmed that they are investigating information as to whether senior former agents in the agency and senior ANC members aligned to former president were responsible for igniting the recent violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

She said they were also working around the clock to feed police with information to act swiftly.

“Because of the proactive stance that was taken by both intelligence services of the three ministries, but also the work that has been done by the police in averting greater crime that could have occurred in that time. I want South Africans to be rest assured that we did avert a lot,” said Dlodlo.

Meanwhile, ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe said the violence, looting, and vandalism that has gripped parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal had nothing to do with the former president.

Speaking to the media at the Chris Hani Mall in Vosloorus, Mantashe said these were mere thugs who were seeing an opportunity to loot.

Sibongile Besani, head of ANC Presidency, told the SABC on Wednesday that the current riots were triggered by the decision of the Constitutional Court to sentence the former president to 15 months in jail.  

“The riots had nothing to with the ANC or factions within the party as alluded by some,” said Besani.

After meeting with political parties, Presidency said in a statement that government was looking into expanding the deployment of the military.

“President Ramaphosa welcomed proposals made by political leaders and said expanded deployment of the South African National Defence Force was being addressed,” the statement said.

“The President noted the initiative taken by leaders of political parties to visit affected communities and said the presence of political leadership in communities at a time like this was welcome and necessary.”

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