Thuggery and property damage in Zuma support protests, Ramaphosa appeals for violence to stop
Supporters believed to be protesting the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma are alleged to have torched over two dozen trucks in KwaZulu-Natal late on Friday night and early Saturday morning, disrupting traffic, damaging infrastructure, and impeding the movement of road cargo from the harbour into the rest of the province, country and the southern African region.
In a statement issued late on Saturday afternoon, President Cyril Ramaphosa called on communities in the province “to desist from undermining the rule of law and inflicting damage on the economy”.
“[T]he impact of public violence against the road freight industry and damage to freeways that serve as economic arteries will be felt also by the people organising and committing these crimes.”
Ramaphosa said that “the reasons allegedly advanced for the violence in KwaZulu-Natal cannot be used to legitimise vandalism and public violence”.
Authorities remain on high alert, and are expecting the “uprising” to continue until next week.
Supporters have told Daily Maverick that they will mobilise until Zuma is freed from Estcourt Correctional Centre.
The former president was admitted to the facility at about 2.20am on Thursday morning to start serving a 15 month sentence, the result of being found in contempt of court for disobeying an order of the Constitutional Court that he appear before the commission of inquiry into state capture.
The court is set to hear his application for rescission on Monday.
KwaZulu-Natal premier, Sihle Zikalala, has confirmed via his Twitter account that he has broached the idea of a pardon for the former president with ANC leadership.
Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile, has been documenting and, it appears, encouraging the “revolution” via her Twitter account.
She did not respond to calls or text messages. AfricaCheck did point out on social media that some of her images and videos were unrelated to the protests and had happened last year.
— Africa Check (@AfricaCheck) July 10, 2021
Police minister Bheki Cele told Daily Maverick on Saturday that he would not be visiting the province to assess the damage from the protests because he was involved in the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting.
“Absolutely no [I won’t be coming to KZN]. The provincial commissioner and deputy national commissioner are there.”
Asked about Duduzile’s tweets, which could be viewed as inciting violence, Cele said: “The police must follow that up.”
— Dudu Zuma-Sambudla (@DZumaSambudla) July 9, 2021
The outbursts were, in some areas of the eThekwini metro, accompanied by looting of stores and stoning of vehicles. Tyres were set alight on highways, municipality tipper trucks used to block roads with refuse, and metro police attacked.
“The protests last night were very volatile. Our members came under fire,” metro police senior superintendent Parboo Sewpersad told Daily Maverick.
He said the chaos had continued “until the wee hours” of Saturday, with rioters also stoning police. For the safety of users, some roads within the metro area had to be closed.
“This took place mostly in areas near to informal settlements,” he said.
Additional resources had to be brought in to manage the situation, said Parboo, “which will have overtime ramifications”.
The protests were expected “for the rest of the week” he said.
Road Traffic Inspectorate provincial information officer, Zinhle Mngomezulu told Daily Maverick that 33 trucks had been torched between Friday night and Saturday morning.
“In total, 24 trucks were burned at Mooi River plaza, two at the R103 alternative route, six in the Zululand area, and one on the N2 at Umgababa.” No injuries had been reported, she said.
The Mooi River N3 toll plaza is one of the busiest in the country, linking KwaZulu-Natal’s two major seaports with most of the hinterland, such as the economic hub of Gauteng, and SADC countries.
The area is not a stranger to violence, with the road freight industry targeted over the past four years.
In May 2018, 32 trucks were torched on the N3 stretch in the Mooi River area.
A month prior to this, hundreds of motorists were delayed over the Easter long weekend when looting of trucks took place along the same route.
Justification for the attacks – mostly on foreign drivers – came via the so-called Radical Economic Transformation (RET) forces within the province, a loose coalition of ANC-supporting business forums, MK veterans, unemployed graduates, funeral parlour associations, truckers and traders adhering to the RET ideology initially associated with Zuma.
The KZN RET chairperson, Nkosentsha Shezi, told Daily Maverick that what was happening was “unfortunate”, but “we have warned that if [there was failure] to find a solution [to have Zuma avoid prison] it would be stoking a war”.
“President Zuma is in the hearts of the masses of our people, in spite of your media avalanche of attacks in an attempt to tarnish his image and present him as corrupt and lawless.”
Zuma was the greatest statesman that democratic South Africa had ever seen, he said.
Asked if he believed Duduzile Zuma was mobilising protestors via social media, Shezi said: “I don’t think she’s really mobilising people. I know Duduzile…. Maybe we should accept that what is happening in our country is part of what is expected to happen because our law and our constitution does provide for the citizens to go out and demonstrate.”
Shezi said the protests were “not organised under the banner of RET”. He had told Daily Maverick the same thing on Wednesday night, just hours before Zuma left his Nkandla home to hand himself over to authorities, and added that “sporadic” outbursts would be taking place throughout the coming days.
“From what I can see, these are just sporadic reactions of people from different locations, just like in the Apartheid era.”
Following Zuma’s arrest, president Cyril Ramaphosa’s legacy would be one of “satisfying his white capitalist masters”, said Shezi.
Ramaphosa’s regime “is going down, going down to not return at all. The people are turning up in the streets, the people are taking their power back.”
Shezi said that because protesting was his constitutional right, he would do so “whenever I see fit”.
He wouldn’t be on the ground with any of the protestors this weekend though, he said, because he didn’t want to “go into crowded spaces because of Covid-19 lockdown level four”. He said protestors should wear masks to avoid being infected with the virus.
The RET movement in KZN had not “planned anything official” for next week, he said, because it found itself in a very difficult position.
“For the past two days [since Zuma has been imprisoned], we could hardly meet. People were very emotional, we were crying like kindergarten children, really sobbing. Our hearts are broken.
“But as we see ordinary men and women of the province rising up, we are energised, we feel that there is hope that this ANC will be taken back to its historical mission of fighting the land invaders of 1652…and implementing RET to the benefit of the masses of our people.”
According to KZN SAPS spokesperson, brigadier Jay Naicker, officers had been deployed along major routes and key points in each district of the province.
“Twenty-seven suspects have been arrested since yesterday on various charges that include public violence, business burglary, malicious damage to property, and contravention of the DMA (disaster management act) lockdown regulations.”
The N3 at Mooi River remained closed at the time of publication.
The ANC on Saturday afternoon released a statement calling for calm in the province and condemning “the destruction of property and infrastructure” accompanying the protests.
“The ANC recognises and respects the rights of every South African to protest peacefully and unarmed and freely to express their views on any matter of concern. However, in exercising their constitutional rights, citizens must respect the rights of others and refrain from breaking the law or using violence. In a constitutional democracy any matters of concern must be expressed through peaceful and legitimate channels.”
According to the statement, the provincial executive committee and NEC deployees had been instructed to “intervene immediately and engage our structures and all relevant stakeholders”.
“Bringing peace and stability to affected areas is a priority for the ANC and the democratic movement. The ANC urges law-enforcement agencies to act firmly and expeditiously, within the law, against any form of lawlessness, public violence, damage to property and disruption of economic activity and service delivery.” DM/MC
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