On Wednesday, the DA filed a charge of terrorism against those responsible for the 21 trucks that were set on fire in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Gauteng.
Five suspects have already appeared in the magistrate’s court in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, on charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances, intentional damage to property, conspiracy to commit a crime, illegal possession of a firearm and attempted murder.
The state security agency announced last week that there were 12 people of interest.
Dianne Kohler-Barnard, DA-MP, today opened a case against the suspects in terms of the Act on the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorists and Related Activities (POCDATARA Act). She believes the suspects committed economic terrorism.
“They destroyed trucks worth R2.5 million per truck. The trucks were transporting coal and chrome,” says Kohler-Barnard.
“This is clearly the work of a syndicate with a certain modus operandi to cause as much destruction and panic in the country as possible. It was certainly not the action of a single person working alone.”
According to Kohler-Barnard, the trucks are of key importance in transporting goods, food and equipment across the country.
“Without the trucks, businesses and grocery stores will not be able to replenish their supplies and this will lead to a massive food shortage. Trucking companies and farmers may also be at risk of major business losses due to damage to their property or increased insurance or travel costs.
“Consequently, an attack on these trucks and transport of goods and food is an attack on our economy.
“If similar attacks continue, investors and other countries will move their port operations to other countries. This will have a further effect on the country’s economy.”
In terms of the law, a terrorist activity is defined in detail in several scenarios, but for the purposes of this case, Kohler-Barnard emphasizes only those that apply to the destruction of these vehicles. It is defined, among other things, as any act which:
- involves the systematic, repeated or arbitrary use of force by any means or method; or
- the destruction of or causes substantial damage to any property, natural resource or the environmental or cultural heritage, whether public or private; or
- is designed or calculated to cause serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, or the delivery of any such service, facility or system, whether public or private; or
- cause any great economic loss or extensive destabilization of an economic system or substantial destruction of the national economy of a country; or
- which is intended, or by its nature and context, can reasonably be regarded as intended, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, to intimidate, or to cause feelings of insecurity.
According to Kohler-Barnard, the destruction of the trucks fits within several subsections of this definition.
“Furthermore, these acts were not one-off, random attacks, but clearly calculated and planned, on more than one occasion.
“By charging these persons in terms of the law, it will also send a message to other saboteurs and vandals of key infrastructure areas across the country that sabotage of this nature will not be tolerated.”
Given the serious nature of these crimes, Kohler-Barnard also urged the police to apply all available resources to this matter and investigate it with due care and professionalism.
She also requested that, when the dossier is handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for prosecution, those persons are indeed charged in terms of the law, as well as that the police have gathered sufficient information to do so.