Just ahead of being arrested on Saturday, 27 August, on charges of inciting violence during the July riots, the 16th alleged instigator was posting to Twitter about suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule’s campaigning trip to Mpumalanga at the weekend.
Then, 36-year-old Zamaswazi Zinhle Majozi’s home in Leondale on the East Rand of Johannesburg was raided by the Hawks and the part-time caterer and social media fire-starter spent the weekend in jail.
“Majozi is alleged to have incited public violence in the content she circulated on her social media accounts which resulted in the looting and burning that occurred at Brookside Mall in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal,” said Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale.
On Monday she was released on R3,000 bail after appearing in court on incitement to violence charges brought under the 1956 Riotous Assemblies Act. In court, Majozi cut a haggard and lonely figure – far at odds with the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) braggadocio that has made her a social media star with her account @_AfricanSoil, which goes by the name of “Sphithiphithi Evaluator”.
“Sphithiphithi” means chaos or madness, and the account is an articulate and occasionally smart amplifier of RET positions on politics and, more recently, on the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.
The mother of two is still breastfeeding her baby and spent the weekend in the cold Germiston police cells after an unseasonal front sent temperatures to below freezing in the evenings. Appearing in the dock to argue for bail, Majozi wore her mask up to her nose – her glasses and a grubby woollen cap obscured the rest of her identity. She wore a denim jacket that had seen better days and almost nobody turned out to support her. This is despite the ANC RET faction trending her on social media in a campaign called, #IamSphithiphithiEvaluatorToo.
Jacob Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, also got the hashtag trending but was nowhere to be seen – neither was Magashule. The RET faction’s spokesperson, Carl Niehaus, spent a short while at the court but left before she appeared. He conferred at length with Thabo Mtsweni, the founder of the new civil society organisation, Democracy in Action, which supported Majozi.
Mtsweni posted bail for Majozi, who the court heard had experienced hard times as the family catering business had taken a Covid-19 tumble.
Her Twitter account has 68,800 followers and is an “insider” account with obvious and detailed political knowledge. It is allied to the RET faction and carries a lot of pro-Magashule content. Magashule spent the weekend campaigning in Mpumalanga with Ngrayi Ngwenya, the party’s provincial big shot who was recently suspended by the ANC national executive committee. They campaigned to free Zuma and gave out a lot of political currency in the form of T-shirts and other goodies.
For all her love of social media attention, Majozi argued that her image should not be filmed, broadcast or photographed. Magistrate Andre Agenbag granted a temporary order to gag publication or broadcast of her image in court, pending her defence team getting access to media applications to film in court. Her case will be heard on 18 October 18 in the same court. Majozi does not have a passport and was warned that she cannot leave Gauteng.
Her attorney, Andries Kgatlampi Nkome of Phosa Loots Attorneys (ANC veteran Mathews Phosa’s firm), said: “The case is in tatters. She was clearly shaken (by her arrest), nobody expects a tweet can get you arrested.” He said the long delay in getting the case onto the court roll showed that the prosecution did not have a strong case. He claimed that a prosecutor from the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions had spent hours poring over the case and then handed it over to the court prosecutors to deal with the bail application. Magistrate Agenbag criticised the prosecution for delaying the court and the defence team for almost six hours.
The police and prosecution seemed about as ready for the “Spithiphithi Evaluator” case as the ANC is for the October elections.
The case was moved from the Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court to Germiston at short notice, and was then delayed for hours. The application was not ready and the police case was still clearly in a nascent phase, raising questions about why the Hawks rushed to put out a weekend statement on the arrest of Majozi and a second person (a man) arrested in relation to the Brookside Mall attack.
Speaking to Newzroom Afrika before the second suspect’s appearance, Police Minister Bheki Cele said that this arrest, together with that of a well-known social media personality in Johannesburg at the weekend, brings the total number of alleged instigators arrested to 18, as Des Erasmus reported here.
Of the 18, only the arrests of Majozi and the second suspect, former Ukhozi FM DJ Ngizwe Mchunu, Fees Must Fall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile, the West Rand Patriotic Alliance mayoral candidate Bruce Nimmerhoudt and Themba Mnisi have been publicly reported.
The six are said to be instigators, but their profiles and the cases against them suggest that while they might have fanned the flames of the violence and looting, they were not the masterminds. DM