South Africa’s police and intelligence services failed to anticipate and disrupt days of arson and looting last year in which more than 300 people died, a report into the unrest commissioned by the president and released on Monday found.
The violence was sparked by the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma for defying a court order to testify at a corruption inquiry and fanned by anger over the poverty and inequality that persist almost three decades after the end of apartheid.
The government deployed soldiers to restore calm, but around R50 billion of damage was caused by one estimate as shops were ransacked and key infrastructure targeted.
President Cyril Ramaphosa tasked an expert panel with analysing his government’s preparedness and reaction. He is expected on Thursday to say what action the government will take in response to the report.
“There was a significant intelligence failure to anticipate, prevent or disrupt the planned and orchestrated violence,” the report by the experts concluded.
“The combination of poorly equipped police stations and inadequately trained police resulted in the police being overwhelmed and not being able to deploy sufficient and properly trained and equipped officers,” it added.
The experts said the executive branch of government, which comprises the president and his cabinet of ministers, “carries some of the blame too and must take responsibility for its lapse of leadership”.
The report’s authors said they had been told several times that “what appears to be factional battles in the African National Congress (ANC) have become a serious source of instability in the country”.
Ramaphosa and Zuma are from opposing factions in the ANC, which holds a leadership contest late this year at which Ramaphosa is expected to seek re-election.
Ramaphosa’s office said he would in a state of the nation address on Thursday spell out the first steps his government would take to act on the report’s findings.
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