South Africa


Hawks identify Bonginkosi Khanyile as an instigator who made a ‘substantive contribution to the unrest’

An upbeat Bonginkosi Khanyile speaks to media at the Durban Magistrates’ Court on Thursday. The previously convicted #FeesMustFall activist is facing charges that include incitement, relating to last month's devastating civil unrest. (Photo: Des Erasmus)

A veteran police officer on Thursday described KwaZulu-Natal #FeesMustFall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile — one of the alleged instigators of last month’s devastating civil unrest — as an egotist hell-bent on promoting destruction in the province and country in a misguided quest to see former president Jacob Zuma released from prison.

“His preparedness to take the steps he had by mobilising the masses to cause the devastation it did, and then to incite them to persist and intensify their destruction, makes me believe that he will stop at nothing to achieve his overt narcissistic objectives,” said Hawks officer Lieutenant-Colonel Anton Booysen in an affidavit.

Khanyile was appearing in the Durban Magistrates’ Court for a formal bail hearing, which the state opposed. He was arrested on Friday, 20 August on charges of inciting violence and contravening disaster management regulations, and has been held at the Durban Central police station while awaiting the outcome of his bail bid.

“From my supervision of the investigations conducted into the unrest, riots, [and] widespread public violence which resulted in the loss of life and devastation, the applicant has been identified as an instigator who has made a substantive contribution to the unrest that unfolded to bring about the state of unlawfulness threatening our constitutional and economic stability,” said Booysen, section commander of the Hawks’ Crimes Against the State investigations in KZN. 

Booysen said in the affidavit that based on Khanyile’s conduct, if he was released on bail, “he will continue to incite more people in KwaZulu-Natal and in other provinces to continue with acts of violence, the damage of which may result in the destabilisation of the economy and rule of law”. 

State prosecutor Yuri Ganga read the affidavit into the record. 

At Khanyile’s first court appearance on Monday, the Hawks confirmed to Daily Maverick that the accused was the 15th alleged instigator to have been arrested since the July unrest, although Police Minister Bheki Cele had named him as the 16th.

Cele told the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday that the riots had led to the loss of 359 lives. He said that extensive damage was caused to 161 malls, 11 warehouses, eight factories and 161 liquor outlets and distributors. More than 200 shopping centres were looted and damaged, said Cele, and 100 gutted by fire. 

#FeesMustFall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile. (Photo: Mandla Langa)

“Looting also took place in about 300 shops in KZN and Gauteng, damaging over 1,400 ATMs.

“The wanton destruction resulted in 300 banks and Post Office branches being vandalised, 113 pieces of communication infrastructure were significantly damaged, and 1,119 retail stores were impacted and damaged,” said Cele. 

Khanyile cut a more relaxed figure in the dock on Thursday than at his Monday appearance. Speaking to reporters, he said: “Even if we are facing the gallows and are sentenced to death, we will sustain [the call] that [Zuma] must be freed,” he said. 

Zuma handed himself over to authorities in the early hours of 8 July to start serving a 15-month sentence for being in contempt of a Constitutional Court order that he appear before the Zondo Commission. On the first night of his arrest, reports came in of trucks being burnt and looted in KZN. The mayhem quickly spread around the province and to Gauteng

The investigating officer in the case, Anton Booysen from the Organised Crime Unit, said the 31-year-old accused, if granted bail, would continue with his cause, which could lead to more incitement and violence. 

Booysen said “regular intelligence-driven reports of a possible recurrence in the violence” were being reviewed and that “based on his conduct, the applicant poses a credible risk to society”. 

The case against Khanyile was strong, asserted Booysen. “The entirety of the state’s case is based on video recordings of comments made by the applicant, which can hardly be disputed.” 

In one video clip that is being used as evidence by the state, Khanyile can be seen at the time of the unrest allegedly inciting a crowd at a taxi rank in Durban. 

In that clip, Khanyile can be heard saying in isiZulu: “Those who are continuing to burn the country must continue burning it until Bab’Msholosi is released. Those who continue to block the roads must continue to block the roads until Bab’Msholosi is released. Those who are fighting must continue fighting until Msholosi is released. Amandla! Viva Jacob Zuma, Viva! Thank you very much, I love you all!”

This clip was one of five played by the state in the courtroom.  

The Durban University of Technology graduate gained notoriety during the violent 2016 #FeesMustFall unrest. He was convicted and sentenced in 2019 for crimes committed during those riots: public violence, possession of a dangerous weapon and two counts of failure to comply with police orders. 

Khanyile was placed under house arrest for three years, but only completed two. He was under suspension when the latest alleged crimes were committed. 

Booysen said that given his previous conviction, Khanyile faced a lengthy incarceration if found guilty. This, he said, would provide a motive for Khanyile to evade trial if released on bail. 

Media interviews with an unrepentant Khanyile, conducted during the #FeesMustFall era, also formed part of the state’s evidence on Thursday.

Booysen said: “The applicant has demonstrated through his [prior and recent] actions that it is his nature to be defiant and there is every likelihood that he will not comply with any bail conditions that are set.”

A decision is expected to be handed down on 31 August. DM


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All Comments 9

  • Anybody asking for free Zuma and cannot see the rot should remain in jail and throw the keys away. Anyone with more than 2 brain cells can see Zuma is rotten to the core and will only be supported by people indebted to him through his patronage or just blind loyalty. They support Zuma like they support a football team, the difference being that sometimes the football team wins and there is hope for change.

  • He’s an angry young man and his anger has little to do with Zuma, fees must fall, or anything but his sense of powerlessness. Society needs protection from him and others who feel so powerless that they violate others and their space. Lock him away yes, but he can be rehabilitated if the care really cares. Sadly, it doesn’t and never has.

  • I’m glad he is being charged. Has anyone from the ANC or the KZN construction mafia been charged? It seems they are only interested in charging loners.

  • The Zombie has spoken. As I recall South Africans in general were really gatvol for Zuma and that is why he is no longer president. Now the Zulus are furious. They cannot stand not having one of their own at the head of the state sanctioned looting orgy (where the real looting is going on unabated). They want their man back no matter what. They are doing their best to turn this into a national uprising. But it is not. It is purely a Zulu thing. Will the rest of South Africa have the stomach for the Zulu instigators? Will they want to be ruled by a Zulu again?

  • Irrespective of the cause, this idiot is responsible for the 400+ deaths that was a result of his actions and should be charged accordingly.

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