A WARY Pretoria has once again deployed the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to protect the country’s infrastructure ahead of the festive season.
This comes amid recent violent attacks on commercial trucks, particularly those driven by foreign nationals, as well as Wednesday’s court ruling which deemed former president Jacob Zuma’s medical parole to be unlawful — and, therefore, that he should return to jail.
Speaking on security preparations for the holiday break, Defence minister Thandi Modise said the military’s mandate was to protect the country’s infrastructure — adding that any eruption of chaos would affect the whole region.
“Usually if there is any issue which might create uncertainty to life and limb, to property, and to the economic interests of the country, defence gets interested.
“We cannot afford a situation as a country where trucks block strategic economic routes which … affect the whole of Sadc,” she said.
In this light, the SANDF would be taking over law enforcement and security duties on South Africa’s troubled highways which had lately been the scene of violent attacks on trucks.
Modise added that in the wake of the high court ruling which ordered that former president Jacob Zuma return to jail to serve his 15-month sentence, the SANDF “will not hesitate” if approached to be on standby, amid fears of a repeat of wide-scale riots witnessed in July when Zuma was incarcerated.
“We had not actually decided to be on standby simply because there is a court ruling. We were on standby to jump into the toll routes because we have been observing this trend of trucks that keep on hindering the free movement of innocent South Africans and affecting the standing of this country internationally,” she said.
Meanwhile, Justice minister Ronald Lamola has appealed for peace and calm across South Africa following the North Gauteng High Court ruling which ordered Zuma’s return to jail.
On Wednesday, the High Court in Pretoria ordered that the former president return to prison to serve the 15-month jail term which was imposed on him by the Constitutional Court in June for contempt of court.
But violence soon engulfed the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with more than 300 people losing their lives in the ensuing riots after Zuma began his jail term.
The government has since then been beefing up security deployments, fearing another outburst of anger.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has similarly called for calm following the court verdict which said Zuma has to be sent back to jail.
“The Commission also notes that the social media is already abuzz with statements that have the potential to inflame the situation in the country.
“The Commission calls for calm and appeals to all the people of South Africa to continue being law-abiding members of society and ensure that their actions and statements contribute to nation-building and social harmony, do not heighten tensions and lead to further destruction and violation of people’s rights,” it said.
Meanwhile, members of the disbanded Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) said yesterday that they felt betrayed and also deserved better as the country celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of the ruling African National Congress’s liberation era military wing.
“We made sacrifices to fight for the freedom of the people of South Africa.
“However, we are experiencing this anniversary at a very difficult time for the ex-combatants of MK, wherein one of the issues is that they continue to live in situations that are not very pleasing in terms of them not having houses, not working, not being recognised and being victims of political differences within the liberation movement,” MKMVA Gauteng spokesperson, Bafana Mahlabe, said.
He added that the hotly-contested issue of MKMVA being disbanded based on the issue of the resolution of the ANC’s Nasrec Conference in 2017, remained a sore point.
In the meantime, SA’s lockdown restrictions will stay at level 1, even as the country heads into the holiday season, the country’s Health department said yesterday.
The national coronavirus command council (NCCC) decided to maintain the existing restrictions despite SA’s surge in confirmed Covid-19 cases, as the Omicron variant of the virus continues to spread in the country.
SA recorded its highest ever daily number of Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, with 26 976 new cases being confirmed on the day from 83 864 tests — giving a positivity rate of 32,2 percent.
A further 54 Covid-19-related deaths were also reported on the day, bringing SA’s total fatalities to 90 226 to date.
Health minister Joe Phaahla called on South Africans to be responsible and comply with Covid-19 prevention and treatment protocols during the holiday season, while also urging people to get vaccinated.
“We call upon all travellers, especially those who are unvaccinated or partly vaccinated coming from areas declared hotspots, to get vaccinated before hitting the roads to protect their families and friends,” he said.
Police minister Bheki Cele also urged travellers to get vaccinated before heading home or going on holiday.
“The vaccines remain our best defence by reducing risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death,” Cele said at the briefing on SA’s security preparations before the holiday rush begins.
“Get your jab before you socialise, visit relatives and go on vacation,” he said. — Daily News, IOL & TimesLIVE