THE AFTERMATH ARRESTS
Bail denied for flight risk Mchunu while confusion reigns over insurrection charges
Former Ukhozi FM presenter Ngizwe Mchunu is the most high-profile suspect charged in relation to the recent violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng but he, like others, has been charged with inciting rather than organising what President Cyril Ramaphosa described as an attempted insurrection, raising questions about whether the masterminds will face justice.
Former Ukhozi FM presenter Ngizwe Mchunu was denied bail in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday and his case postponed to 28 July 2021 after he was arrested in Durban on Sunday for allegedly inciting violence during the recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Mchunu, who was transferred from Durban to Johannesburg where a case had been opened, was charged under the Riotous Assembly Act for inciting violence after he posted a number of videos on Facebook after former president Jacob Zuma’s incarceration
In a public address at Kwa Mai Mai market on Sunday 11 July, he warned, “Release Zuma from prison, or all hell will break loose!”
Mchunu was denied bail on the grounds that he is a flight risk. He had apparently evaded police multiple times during the unrest and left Johannesburg in a private jet while being followed by SAPS and intelligence agents.
Mchunu has been described as one of the potential instigators of the violence but NPA spokesperson advocate Mthunzi Mhaga said the charges against him related to incitement rather than being a mastermind of the unrest, raising questions about investigations into and cases against the alleged instigators.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the violence as an attack on democracy and an attempted insurrection. Hundreds of malls were looted and at least 3,407 people have been arrested, with at least 212 fatalities.
The attacks, which targeted food and fuel supply chains and key infrastructure, appeared coordinated and the State Security Agency (SSA) is investigating former agents allegedly involved. ANC and government officials allied to the former president are also allegedly linked to organising the chaos. But no one appears to have been charged for planning the attacks.
In their efforts to create the perception that justice is being served, Cabinet members and law enforcement agencies have caused confusion around who has been arrested for instigating the violence.
Police Minister Bheki Cele last week said 12 instigators were being investigated, suggesting they might have planned and agitated for the attacks. On Sunday, Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said six “key instigators” had been arrested and a number had already appeared in court.
But the officials have been reluctant to provide clarity on whether the arrested instigators are part of the 12 alleged masterminds being investigated for planning the violence.
While it’s understandable that details of investigations into those who may have plotted the alleged insurrection are confidential until arrests are made and the suspects appear in court, the executive and law enforcement continues to muddy the waters.
One of the six “instigators” arrested include Patriotic Alliance member Bruce Nimmerhoudt who sent a voice note calling for a show of violence on Johannesburg’s West Rand similar to what had been seen in KwaZulu-Natal.
“A third suspect, a 21-year old woman, was arrested in Duduza in the Ekurhuleni District on Saturday 17 July 2021 on similar allegations. She is expected to appear before the Nigel Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday,” said NatJoints in a statement.
That case wasn’t even on the court roll in Nigel on Tuesday, which the NPA is yet to explain despite requests for comment, creating further confusion.
In a briefing to Parliament on Wednesday, the NPA said that working with police it had divided emerging cases into four categories: looters, persons found with looted goods, organised theft and incitement of public violence.
The current cases of instigation relate to the latter and mostly appear to include low-profile suspects who supported the violence in social media posts or messages and they appear mostly to have come from Gauteng.
The NPA said it currently had four high-profile cases, one of which was in court on Wednesday, presumably Mchunu’s case. The authorities have been tight-lipped on suspects that haven’t yet appeared in court.
Bonginkosi Khanyile, who was part of a small group that travelled to Gauteng to support Mchunu, claimed the radio presenter was being made a scapegoat for the government’s failures.
“You have a government that runs away from responsibility, that [Ramaphosa] is presiding over people that are hungry, that are starving. The arrest of Jacob Zuma gave a platform for people to go and loot in the malls,” said Khanyile, who was sentenced to three years house arrest for charges related to the Fees Must Fall protests
“Now they want a scapegoat because they are running away from their own responsibilities. It’s very unfair to say Ngizwe Mchunu is the one who led those people into looting.”
While there’s video evidence that Mchunu appeared to support the eruption of violence during the call for Zuma’s release, and he was one of the people that rallied to defend the former president at his Nkandla home before his arrest, he has not been charged with planning the supposed insurrection.
Despite all the talk of instigators, neither, it seems, has anyone else. DM
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