President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa says the recent violent attacks across the country were “deliberate and instigated”.
Chaos erupted in the country following the imprisonment of ex-President Jacob Zuma.
The protests devolved into unchecked looting, arson and violence.
Speaking during a statewide address on Friday, Ramaphosa condemned the violence, saying the riots were an attempt to hijack South Africa’s democracy.
He said since the beginning of the unrest, 212 lives have been lost and that the violence and destruction have done enormous damage to the economy “at the time we are struggling to recover from the impact of coronavirus pandemic”.
“The event of the past week was nothing less than deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy. The constitutional order of our country is under threat,” he said.
“The current instability in the ongoing incitement to violence constitutes a direct contravention of the constitution of our country and the rule of law. These actions are intended to cripple the economy of our country, cause social instability, and severely weaken and even dislodge a democratic state.
“Using the pretext of a political grievance, those behind these acts have sought to promote insurrection among our people.
“The ensuing chaos is used as a smokescreen to commit economic sabotage through targetted attacks on trucks, factories, warehouses and other infrastructures necessary for the function of our economy and provision of services to our people.”
He said according to the preliminary report, “extensive damage has been caused to about 161 malls and shopping centres, 11 warehouses, eight factories, 11 liquor outlets and infrastructure, excluding damages to roads and institutions. We must admit we were poorly prepared for the orchestrated violence, sabotage of this nature,” he added.
“For now, our priority is to stabilise the country, to secure essential supply and infrastructure, provide relief and support, recovery and rebuilding.
“Those who instigated this violence will be held accountable for their deeds because we will not allow anyone to destabilise the country and get away with it, and we will not allow any person, group to challenge the authority of our democratically elected government.”
He said the government and its partners will provide assistance to those in the greatest distress, and also support small businesses to heal from the damage they have suffered.
The president added that he has authorised the deployment of 25,000 members of the South African national defence force to support the work of the police to restore peace in the country.