SAHRC hearings into Gauteng-leg of July unrest end with unanswered questions

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The South African Human Rights Commission hearings into the Gauteng leg of the July unrest have ended, but with many unanswered questions. The commission says the first and second leg of the hearings gathered evidence in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng late last year and last month.

And they were overwhelmed by submissions from the various stakeholders. One of the many questions witnesses appearing before the commission had to answer was the delay in the arrest of the masterminds of the July unrest.

The commission is probing the impact of the July 2021 unrest that claimed about 350 lives and caused more than R50 billion in damages to infrastructure and businesses in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The commission has heard oral and written submissions from political groupings, businesses, and civil society movements. Four cabinet ministers are among those who testified.

The unrest began after the Constitutional Court judgement ordered the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma for failing to appear before the State Capture Inquiry.

Zuma’s son Duduzane is one of those implicated in fuelling the violence. Ethekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda is equally accused of inciting violence.

However, he dismissed the allegations during his testimony at the commission a few days ago.

Ethekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda’s testimony at the hearings:

Media Monitoring Africa William Bird told the commission that Duduzane Zuma used social media platforms to post inflammatory statements.

“There were a series of posts and complaints and there were posts mainly owned by Duduzane Zuma saying that everything burns. Similarly, there was a post by Ethekwini Mayor inciting the burning of whites and Indian houses on an urgent basis. And this was at the time when violence was ongoing. And there were also posts that sort to create fear and confusion.”

Job losses and loss of life 

An activist from the Community Advice Offices of South Africa, Seth Mnguni says communities were taken by surprise following the scale of the violence that erupted during the July 2021 unrest in Kwa Zulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng. He says the week-long looting of businesses caused anxiety, job losses and loss of life.

“I think the July unrest caught everyone by surprise although we heard that there might be protests especially around the issue of former President Mr Zuma. Really, we were not expecting that it might go that much and in that massive fashion. And so we woke up in the middle of that. So, what we could do was to try and mobilise communities to abstain from what had already started.”

Delays in arrests 

In his testimony earlier in the week, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola was questioned about the delays in the arrest of the masterminds of the July unrest, and this is what he had to say.

“I cannot instruct the police and the NPA who and how they must arrest. But I do believe that with the information at their disposal at some stage they will be able to arrest the masterminds behind this unrest. Because to arrest the “Gogo” that I was talking about and someone who just saw an opportunity of the mall or warehouse that was open doesn’t go into the crack of the matter.”

Minister Ronald Lamola testimony at the hearings:

President Ramaphosa to appear before the commission

The commission has confirmed that President Cyril Ramaphosa will appear before it at the beginning of next month.

“The hearing panel will reconvene on Friday the 01 April 2022 when the President of the Republic of SA Cyril Ramaphosa appears and gives evidence in regard to the 2021 July unrest. The commission, the media informed,” says commission’s chairperson Adre Gaum.

Police have so far confirmed 12 alleged instigators who have been arrested and charged with inciting violence. More than 1 400 others were arrested and charged with crimes ranging from public violence, theft, and damage to property in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.