South Africa

ANALYSIS

ANC Crimes With No Punishment point the way to a failed state

From left: Former Ukhozi FM presenter Ngizwe Mchunu. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo) | Former president Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane Zuma. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Netwerk24) | Police Minister Bheki Cele. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | Former president Jacob Zuma's daughter Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

If a group of people was able to cause this much violence, damage and death with no consequences, there will be nothing to stop it from doing so again.

Despite official promises, it is still not certain that the full truth about the July violence will ever be made fully public, in a courtroom. As there is clear evidence that the violence was the result of ANC members’ actions, it is in the interests of many in the party that no accountability is established and no crimes end up punished. 

While this silence may be politically convenient for the ruling party, it is being paid for by a raised level of risk for South Africa. If a group of people was able to cause this much violence, damage and death with no consequences, political, legal or otherwise, there will be nothing to stop it from doing so again.

In the hours after the start of the violence, leaders in the government and the ANC promised that “the law will take its course”. President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his address to the nation, “We will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute those who perpetrate these actions and will ensure that they face the full might of our law.”

But so far there is little evidence to suggest that this has happened.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Tuesday that a twelfth suspect had been arrested in connection with instigating and arranging the violence. But he has made announcements like this before and as yet we are no clearer to knowing what exactly happened. 

Last week, despite the National Prosecuting Authority saying that it had a strong case against him and that he was a flight risk, Ngizwe Mchunu was released on bail of just R2,000. During that application, Mchunu claimed that during the violence Cele actually called him and told him to stop people looting.

While Cele may deny this, it suggests that many of the people involved in these events, on all sides, know each other.

In Gauteng, an advocate, Ike Khumalo, was released on bail of R3,000 and denies instigating the violence.

And there can be no doubt of the real origins of the violence.

As SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande put it on Sunday, “The dangerous insurrection emerged from its nesting place within the ANC itself.”

Meanwhile, it has been reported in Daily Maverick that WhatsApp groups including and involving senior ANC members were coordinating and celebrating acts of looting.

There is no evidence so far that the police are investigating these groups.

Then there is the incitement on Twitter.

Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma told looters to “loot responsibly” during the violence. His sister Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla encouraged her Twitter followers to commit violence. Twitter has now taken action against her account for doing so. The JG Zuma Foundation tweeted: “Peace and stability in South Africa is directly linked to the release of President Zuma with immediate effect”.

And yet none of the people responsible for these posts has been arrested, or even, insofar as is known, contacted by police.

The ANC itself has not denied that its members may have been involved. The party’s Head of Presidency, Sibongile Besani, speaking on SAfm during the violence said, “We can’t rule out that some of our members or supporters are in the whole saga; we have had our share of challenges and there are some opportunists who want to hide behind the incarceration of Jacob Zuma.”

And then there is the fact that this was all arranged in clear sight. Everyone interested in politics could see the events that led to this, like the mass gathering at Nkandla the Sunday before Zuma was arrested. The gathering was on TV, as thousands of people, including a Cabinet minister (Lindiwe Sisulu), an ANC NEC member (Tony Yengeni) and the now suspended MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus broke lockdown regulations.

It may be that one of the problems is that ANC leaders are simply unable to call this for what it really was — violence instigated by a faction of their own party.

Again and again, the president, the police minister, the KZN premier and others have spoken about the violence, but have not mentioned the fact this is about an ANC internal fight for power.

While it may appear that this is because they don’t want to damage the name of their own party, it is more complex than that.

The recent language of ANC leaders in KZN around Zuma has demonstrated that this is a major problem for them. Both Premier Sihle Zikalala and KZN ANC Provincial Secretary Mdumiseni Ntuli attended Zuma’s court appearances (before the Constitutional Court ruled he must be jailed) and said they supported him. Twice they were booed by Zuma supporters, who simply do not believe Zikalala and Ntuli really support the former president.

The duo’s attempts at pleasing the crowd show that they must believe Zuma still has a sizeable constituency.

However, the more difficult question to answer may be whether they are behaving in this way for their own interests (in that they don’t want to lose what support Zuma can still muster) or because they genuinely worry that the situation could get out of control. The most likely answer: both.

Before the violence, it might have been easy to say that any claim they were acting in this way because of a fear of violence was simply overblown. It may be harder to say that now.

That said, the problem still remains: if national leaders cannot call it for what it is, can they really solve it?

It should not be forgotten that the failures of the police to solve these problems are not entirely a natural weakness. The evidence that our police service, the Hawks and the criminal justice system have been deliberately and perhaps fatally weakened over the last decade is clear.

It is also clear that this was for political ends, to weaken the rule of law, to allow powerful forces to act with impunity. If the Constitutional Court ruling that a former president can and must be arrested is proof that we are a country under the rule of law, then this violence was a direct response to that. Only time will tell if the country, the ANC (or the dominant faction of it) and the government are up to this challenge. Right now, the prospects look bleak.

The first step in brightening this darkness would be to reject the callousness, to make it clear that no one in South Africa can act with impunity.

No matter what happens, any imaginable future for our country must consider the possibility of the failure of our criminal justice system and its inability to hold those responsible to account. This is certain to happen as long as the ANC fails to look in the mirror and reflect on what it sees.

And yet, what other choice does the ruling party have if South Africa is to avoid sliding into a failed state on its watch? DM

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All Comments 27

  • Unfortunately the line of decency, ethics and morality has been crossed. CR had the moment that could have saved the future of this country, but that too seems to have passed. It’s now each man for himself….you can even feel it in the air. What a tragedy….

    • Jane, CR has had so many opportunities during his presidency to show leadership skills but he just doesn’t have it in him. Poor squirrel needs time to look for his nuts.

      • The chances of that happening are, unfortunately – next to nothing. The ANC will rule for the foreseeable future as their disillusioned followers rather don’t vote, than vote for someone else. The DA is in disarray and losing votes, mostly to minor parties such as the FF+. What is more likely is that the EFF stands to gain most from voters that may turn away from the ANC. With a weakened RET faction, the EFF is the most likely political home for them. Or the EFF folds itself back into the ANC at some point, to strengthen the RET faction from within. President Julius Malema in 2027?

        • Cyril is going to revamp his cabinet. This was a conspiracy, the full might of the law, all perpetrators will be brought to book, blah, blah.

          I wonder if he even believes himself.

          As for the country out there, I reckon nobody does. He just looks irrelevant.

          Along with the police there to protect you, etc.

  • “And yet, what other choice does the ruling party have if South Africa is to avoid sliding into a failed state on its watch?” They don’t care one bit about the future of SA nor any of it’s people. All the anc cares about is to rule until the country is totally obliterated. Then they will look for the next target.

  • Even for our Keystone cops, it’s not that difficult to deal with. Start with the 2 Zuma offspring, it’s all laid out in their Twitter accounts & take it from there.

    The problem is that the ANC is the source & cause of this monumental mess & mayhem, so how can anyone expect them to act against themselves.

    The bottom line is that nothing’s going to come of this, it will all be swept under the carpet. Anyone who thinks that there’ll be consequences for the orgy of violence & looting last month is sadly living in some kind of parallel utopian universe.

    • cANCer has always been a criminal organization. Pre ’94 they raised money by feeding the youth drugs and conniving with the criminal gangs, especially in the W Cape. And of course stealing anything. That legacy is still there.

      • And our erstwhile minister of defense (yes, he of the arms deal profiteering) used to run car theft business getting cars from SA to Zambia.

  • The ANC is rotten to the core and a weak president is either unable or unwilling to see that. That the recent crisis was caused by ANC members alone has been admitted by some leading party members, e.g. Mavusi Msimang. To start assuring the citizens of this country that the rule of law matters, Ramaphosa should immediately fire all those incompetent ministers as a first step.

    • They will not lose the next election but will possibly be forced into a coalition. The question is…will it be with the EFF ( who have Zuma ANC support). Or the DA( who have Biz SA support)
      Interesting times ahead.

    • Bruce, I think the unfortunate answer to your question is that we have no inkling of how nasty things will get if the ANC losses at the polls. I agree with Jane to the extent that they would at least have to be included in some sort of power sharing but it remains to be seen if they would accept that.

    • Yes – the victims of the rioting and looting – businesses, truck owners, property owners, spas shops – should join a civil class action against the 26 instigators. Sue them for hundreds of millions in damages. For this, you don’t need the Hawks, SAPS or the ANC. You just need a team of good lawyers and advocates. And sue each one of them individually – drive them into penury for the rest of their lives.

      • I agree totally with your suggestion – couldn’t have said it better myself!
        Ordinary people who have suffered mental stress and emotional breakdowns have a claim against them too! You cannot underestimate how psychologically damaging the insurrection was. The affects of which will last for years. South Africa is forever changed.

  • It’s almost sweet – Stephen Grootes (one of SAs best) clearly still believes that the anc have a chance of redemption. I wonder if his inclination towards balance and fairness are getting in the way of the obvious: that the anc, despite a sprinkling of ‘good’ apples, is beyond saving.

  • Absolutely agree that the only way forward in the light of government inaction and inertia, is by way of civil lawsuits by major bodies concerned. Make the instigators pay in their pockets if they cannot be criminally charged which at the moment seems to be the case. The whole thing is a gigantic mess and a total disgrace.

  • Where do we draw the line? When do we stand up? How much more proof do we need? The point of no return is here. Clearly the ANC have played their last hand. Unless Ramaposeur can pull one more Ace from his sleeve we should expect nothing more from this collection of political imposters. An international disgrace that paints the country beyond redemption.

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