Ramaphosa backtracks on 'ethnic mobilisation' comment while visiting KZN

President Cyril Ramaphosa was in KZN following days of unrest which kicked off as part of a free Former President Jacob Zuma campaign.

President Cyril Ramaphosa conducted an oversight visit to KZN on Friday, 16 July 2021. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has backtracked on his initial statement that the riots, violence and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng were sparked by “ethnic mobilisation”.

During his address on Sunday evening, the president offered no evidence to back up his initial statement, but told the nation that this must be condemned by all citizens.

“It is a matter of concern to all South Africans that some of these acts of violence are based on ethnic mobilisation. This must be condemned by all South Africans at all costs as we are a nation committed to non-racialism and non-tribalism that is underpinned by the diversity and unity of all the people of South Africa, whatever their language, culture, religious beliefs and race,” said Ramaphosa at the time.

However on Friday, during an oversight visit to KwaMashu, in Durban, he said he and government realised this was not the case: "There were suggestions that some instigators were using terms that were ethnic mobilisation. They were using terms such as "leli Venda leli" meaning me... With all our leaders, we came to the conclusion that this was not ethnic mobilisation at all."

Ramaphosa was in the province following days of unrest, which kicked off as part of a free former President Jacob Zuma campaign.

READ: BHEKI MNGOMEZULU: The 'ethnic mobilisation' narrative will destroy the country

The president has finally taken to seeing for himself how much damage has been done across some parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

He told journalists it was quite clear instigators were behind the unrest.

He also said law enforcement could have done better with its initial response to the violence and looting.

“And it's quite clear that all these incidents of unrest and looting were instigated, and we are after those people, we are going after them. We have identified a good number of them and we will not allow anarchy and mayhem to just unfold in our country,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the authorities prioritised saving lives: “Yes. We could have done better. But we were overwhelmed by a situation and primary in the minds of the minister of police and the commanders was to save lives, to make sure that we did not get into a situation, which could have resulted in more mayhem.”

He said the loss of life was regrettable: “And as minister of state security has also said in the past, the situation could have been much worse, and our security forces came to the party and did the very best that was not really great. Obviously, we regret the situation that has resulted in this, this is not what we want to see in our country.”

Ramaphosa will also meet with provincial leaders and some ministers from the security cluster.

He is also set to meet with his Cabinet later on Friday.

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