Was it a coup attempt, an insurrection or a counter-revolution?

In a sign of the confusion within the government over the causes of the violence that killed more than 200 people, caused billions of rands of damage and sullied the country’s reputation, the Presidency has rebuked the Defence Minister’s attempt to downplay the planned nature of the attacks, says a Business Day report.

The looting, which ‘almost brought the country to its knees’, was an orchestrated attempt at an insurrection and anything to the contrary was not supported by law enforcement agencies, acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said yesterday.

However, on Sunday, Defence & Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula contradicted President Cyril Ramaphosa, calling the looting just acts of thuggery.

Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence on Sunday night that for the rampage to have been an insurrection or attempted coup, it would have to have had a face.

Her view, which left many baffled given the attack on infrastructure such as water reservoirs, was that it was ‘a counter-revolution creeping in the form of criminality and thuggery’ and that she had no evidence to indicate the events ‘so far talk to an insurrection or a coup’.

But others in the government had indicated something more sinister was at hand, with Police Minister Bheki Cele saying that the government had identified a plot to attack hospitals with patients inside.

Questioned at a briefing on Monday, Ntshavheni said the belief that it was an insurrection was informed by discussions at the National Security Council, which is chaired by Ramaphosa, and by briefings by military commanders, who report to Mapisa-Nqakula, and other law enforcement agencies.

Full Business Day report