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South Africa: Police failed in response to deadly riots

February 7, 2022

A public report into last year's unrest found a series of intel failures led to the riots in which more than 300 people died. The violence occurred after the jailing of former South African President Jacob Zuma.

A street in Durban, South Africa covered with dirt and filth after rioting
The riots resulted in destroyed property and the disruption of cellular and financial servicesImage: RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images

A public report released on Monday in South Africa found police failed to predict and respond to deadly riots last year.

What did the report say?

"There was a failure by the intelligence structures to anticipate and respond adequately to the violence," the report said. The police, meanwhile, had "insufficient capacity" to curb the unrest and were taken "by surprise" by the chaos.

The riots in July 2021, which left more than 300 people dead, were in response to the jailing of former South African President Jacob Zuma.  The former South African president had refused to testify about alleged corruption under his leadership.

The riots took place in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, and lasted for a little over a week. It was the worst violence South Africa had experienced since the end of the apartheid era.

Widespread looting occurred during the unrest, with key infrastructure targeted by rioters. One estimate claimed the riots caused around 50 billion rand ($3.2 billion, €2.8 bilion) in damage.

South African leadership 'carries some of the blame'

The report says the executive branch, which includes South Africa's president and cabinet of ministers, "carries some of the blame too and must take responsibility for its lapse of leadership."

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed the military to assist the police in quelling the violence. Ramaphosa is expected to respond to the findings of the riot report on Thursday.

The report says division between factions in the African National Congress (ANC) has "become a serious source of instability in the country." Ramaphosa and Zuma belong to different factions of the ANC.

The ANC will hold a leadership election later this year, with Ramaphosa expected to seek another term.

wd/rt (Reuters, AFP)