For South Africa to survive, we must publicly hold everyone accountable
The National Prosecuting Authority says it will ensure people who broke the law during the looting are prosecuted. It better not fail. We also must publicly clean up the State Security Agency, one and for all.
The violence of the past five days in two of our nine provinces has shown us, again, that there are continually important lessons to learn about our society. There’s a simple underlying message though: things must change or this pattern will repeat itself ad nauseam. One of the key lessons is that there must be legal accountability for the lawbreakers.
It is obvious that the people who created, arranged and participated in the violence all broke the law. But, if they are held properly accountable — from those who fomented it, all the way to those who simply took part in it — it may be that the roots of our recovery as a nation lie in this violence.
However, this recovery would have to include real accountability, and real transparency within the State Security Agency, Crime Intelligence and other branches of the almost atrophied security cluster. The ANC has singularly failed to allow this accountability to happen in the past, to the detriment of the entire nation.
It is well known that there is an alarming lack of respect for our laws. During the years of apartheid, the law did not have moral legitimacy and to defy it was sometimes a moral priority. One of the main elements of the Mandela project was to change this, to show that the law was legitimate. This happened through the introduction of the Constitution and Madiba’s own willingness to testify in front of a court when ordered to do so by a judge.
But there are dizzyingly many ways in which our laws have been ignored or disrespected for many years.
At the peak of this disrespect, during Jacob Zuma’s presidency, the law was an uncomfortable annoyance one could easily get around. Zuma was able to use his political power to bend the National Prosecuting Authority to withdraw the charges against him, to start with, and things only went downhill from there.
Across South Africa, on a constant basis, taxi drivers break the law at will. Police officers ask for and receive bribes, speeding fines are not paid. This affects all aspects of society, from passengers who tell taxi drivers to speed them to work and home, to the middle classes who have expired car licences. Politically exposed personalities are treated with kid gloves. Court process is being abused daily in a never-ending gigantic Stalingrad orgy, with the most powerful leading the way.
Why are we surprised now as we watch at least 200 malls in KZN and Gauteng being looted on live TV? We’ve been laying down this disrespect of law for many years.
In this darkest of moments, the need for clear accountability is greater than ever.
If people in our communities are able to enjoy the fruits of looting, and if a TV or a fridge in a household, or 10 flat-screen TVs in a garage full of luxury cars are known to be the result of looting, there is nothing to stop future generations from doing the same thing.
Television images have shown men, women and children, some in school uniforms, removing goods from shops. Those children are unlikely to know why their actions are wrong.
However, if people who are identified as having stolen goods are held accountable through the legal process, this could change.
If the NPA fails in this effort, if the legal system fails, whether it be at the level of investigation by the police, or if this occurs out of public view, then no lessons will be learnt.
The symbolic value of this process will be as important as what happens on the ground.
There is already clear evidence that certain people played a hand in first starting and then inciting this violence.
The names are already known. Ngizwe Mkhulu appears to have played a role in starting the violence; Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla has been inciting violence for weeks; Duduzane Zuma asked looters to “do so carefully… and responsibly”.
If the instigators are not held legally accountable for their actions, and publicly so, there is no point in charging any looters.
However, even this may not be enough.
It now appears that the Minister of State Security, Ayanda Dlodlo, believes that some people in the State Security Agency (SSA) may be involved in orchestrating the looting. In response to questions on Tuesday, she confirmed that investigations are under way to probe this. News24 named Thulani Dlomo, a former head of a special unit in the agency, as the main person of interest.
This appears to indicate that people within the SSA are involved, again, in disputes within the ANC, using the spying capabilities of the state.
There is, of course, a long history of this. Ever since the split in the party between then president Thabo Mbeki and former president Jacob Zuma, the intelligence apparatus has been used in these battles. The sangoma and analyst Aubrey Matshiqi has written about how agents of the intelligence services asked him for his views at the time, and clearly had an interest in the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference.
This obviously continued. There is evidence that Zuma used the agency to his own ends and tried to spy on his political opponents when he was in power. The Zondo Commission has heard that millions of rands went from the agency to the MKMVA and other organisations, including Iqbal Survé’s African News Agency.
Despite a report by a high-level panel on the issue, there has still not been proper accountability. This lack of accountability and transparency must be one of the major reasons for the violence, loss of life and looting that we see now.
For there to be a proper change in our society, the situation in the SSA must be made transparent and the people involved in fomenting the insurrection must be held accountable, just as the looters must be brought to justice.
There needs to be an open court process that all of us can see.
It would appear that without this process, without transparency in the SSA about the role of some of its members in this situation, there can be no long-term solution for South Africa’s woes; the politicisation of the SSA will simply continue, and on the taxpayers’ dime, with the same result that we see around us now.
South Africa may survive this horrifying week of violence and looting, but only just. The next time, we won’t be that lucky. DM