First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

Dear Dudu Zuma-Sambudla, do you understand what you’r...

South Africa


Dear Duduzile Zuma, do you understand the horror that your call for ‘another unrest’ will wreak?

From left: Fire in the Durban CBD on 12 July 2021 during looting. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | A vigilante fires his weapon to disperse looters on 14 July 2021 in Vosloorus, Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: James Oatway / Getty Images) | Former president Jacob Zuma's daughter Duduzile Zuma. (Photo: Leila Dougan) | Looters in Spine Road behind the Pavilion Mall on 12 July 2021 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

In recent days, former president Jacob Zuma’s daughter Dudu Zuma-Sambudla has been tweeting in support of ‘another unrest’ — like the one that followed her father’s arrest in July 2021. How can anyone who knows what happened last year possibly be calling for a repeat of the three deadliest days in South Africa’s democratic history?

Dear Dudu Zuma-Sambudla,

Following the arrest of your father, former president Jacob Zuma, you took to Twitter in July last year to call upon your fellow South Africans to rise up against JZ’s detention.

You jubilantly reposted footage and reports of people organising to come together to blockade roads and set buildings on fire. The South African Human Rights Commission would later hear that yours was “one of the accounts that was most engaging in the celebratory parts of unrest”.

Now, amidst President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Farmgate scandal, you are at it again.

“I Smell Another Unrest…” you tweeted on 9 June.

“It’s Time To Take Our Country Back!!!” you exhorted, later the same day, posting a photograph of protesters posing defiantly in front of a burning building. (The image in question actually does not reflect any South African event; it was taken during the 2020 US protests following the murder of George Floyd by police. This technique – passing off old or unrelated photos as if they captured contemporaneous local events — is also one that you employed around the July 2021 unrest.)

When JZ was arrested last year, perhaps your tweeting at the time simply reflected the rage and frustration of a daughter who believed her father was being treated unjustly. Perhaps you genuinely had no idea of the scale of horrifying real-life violence that was about to explode.

This time around, it is impossible to give you the benefit of the doubt. If you weren’t aware in July 2021, you now know, beyond all question, what this “unrest” that you gleefully await again entails.  

Which raises only one question: How, in God’s name, can you possibly be calling for a do-over?

Jacob Zuma’s daughter Dudu Zuma-Sambudla. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Simon Mathebula)

More than 350 people died in the July 2021 unrest. As Daily Maverick discovered when we set out to investigate what exactly went down between the start of Monday, 12 July 2021, and Wednesday, 14 July 2021, most of them died in almost unimaginably awful ways.

They were crushed to death in looted supermarkets under the weight of dislodged boxes of alcohol and huge hunks of frozen meat. They were burnt alive after becoming trapped in buildings set on fire. They fell from bridges to their death while trying to escape police, or ran on to highways and were smashed by cars, or jumped into rivers and drowned.

They died agonisingly, gasping for breath, after being trampled underfoot by crowds stampeding to access shops. In malls in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, we saw blood still staining staircases and emergency exits days later, an eerie testimony to the mayhem that left bodies lying lifeless in its wake.

Others died in a hail of live ammunition, or after being punctured by rubber bullets fired at close range. Some were murdered by criminals while making their way home with stolen loot.

In KwaZulu-Natal, we heard horror stories of bodies being piled on top of each other in morgues, as the available space could not keep pace with the delivery of corpses. Outside mortuaries, desperately fearful mothers lined up to receive the nightmare news about the fate of their missing children.

Not one of the dead was a white monopoly capitalist. Not one of the dead was a member of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration, or drawn from any of the other groups you rail against on Twitter. Those who died were ordinary black and brown people, mostly living in poverty.

They were men, women and children.

A line we heard again and again from mothers grieving their bright young sons: He was my only hope. He was my only way out of here.  

Those who were caught up in the chaos, but survived, told of days spent lying in hospital corridors pleading for attention for bullet wounds. Young men in Durban townships showed us sickening injuries and spoke with weary resignation of the end of promising soccer careers.  

Then there were those who lost everything in different ways. Like Dr Mpho Mushadu, the popular Soweto GP whose practice in the Ndofaya Mall was stripped bare, down to surgical instruments and medication, leaving only the bolted-down chairs in his waiting room.

Security guards spoke of their terror and confusion while trying to hold back people from their own communities — their neighbours and friends — from tearing apart shopping centres that offered the only local employment in an ocean of poverty.

In Durban, the horrifying vigilantism that took place in Phoenix left residents of nearby townships hunkering down in a state of trauma and shock. Elderly men and women, frightened of repeat attacks, talked of their desire to flee — to Johannesburg, to anywhere — but with what? All they had was lodged in a community they no longer recognised.

Dudu Zuma-Sambudla, when you tweet your gleeful anticipation of “another unrest”, do you think of these people?

Do you imagine the sight of 350  broken bodies laid out on mortuary slabs and the families who weep for them still? 

Do you consider them merely necessary collateral damage — in a political crusade aimed solely at helping your own family?

And, if so: How do you sleep? DM


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 65

    • Good point indeed. About time an investigation was launched into why no action has been taken against the suspected perpetrators of last years mayhem

    • Well, why is she not in jail already? After all she was one of the instigators of the violence last year. And I absolutely agree that her social media accounts should be suspended – social media has become a public space and as such it is time that these platforms take responsibility for regulating what is said like other media platforms.

  • Is it possible to give a narcissist advice? How apparent it is that the rest of South Africa means nothing to the Zuma’s as long as they can feather their nest and live in the comfort of I’ll-gotten gains.
    Perhaps there should be a call for #narcissistsmustfall.

    • My sentiments entirely. Maybe Pierre de Vos could explain any legal barriers to arresting her, and indeed any others using social media to incite violence?

  • Another one for cr. He who said – ‘we know who they are’ after the riots. Cyril, if you know who they are, why is this woman and her ilk still walking around free? This type of hype sounds like treason to me. Yet you let them walk for the sake of anc ‘unity’. What a shame!

    • Jip I agree but you can’t blame criminals / politicians for living their values of looting iro of the human cost if no action is taken against them. They all in same boat the action is now surely to vote them out nothing else will change / no consequences till that monent!

  • Dear DM
    Is it possible that you overestimate the intelligence of this poor creature? As you rightly ask, how is it possible. Only if you fail to understand the consequences or knowingly build your life on the bodies and suffering of others. Is that not how the “glorious organisation” came to power also?

  • A silly little spoilt brat who clearly did not get enough good discipline when physically growing up. anyone calling for a repeat of July 2021 requires medical brain attention!

  • The key question hanging in the wind; why was this woman not arrested for her actions? Where are Ramaphosas so called ” twelve known perpetrators “….it is inconceivable that those who instigated sickening anarchy are at it again with brazen impunity.

  • Such reckless, incendiary, hateful incitement to mayhem, violence and death calls for immediate intervention by our security agencies. Why was she not arrested for the horrible death and destruction in July 2021? She ought to be arrested immediately for inciting violence. Why were none of the main instigators of the July 2021 wanton violence and devastation arrested?

  • You cannot call upon the non-existing conscience of someone who is utterly devoid of morals or values as you understand them.

  • Such a good article,Rebecca. I live in Hillcrest,kZN and our local supermarkets and shopping malls were totally trashed. However your article really brought home the true horror of all the deaths, the suffering of the injured and the grief and desolation of the bereaved. One would like to hope that Ms Zuma Sambudla would be so horrified by the scale and horror of the violence she endorsed and encouraged and which you so graphically describe in your letter that she would stop her incendiary tweeting at once but somehow I doubt it. Her loyalty and allegiance seem to belong solely to her father.

  • She’s shameless and so out of touch with the reality of most South African’s. Free speech is a right but that does not mean we should use them so carelessly or with so much callousness. Disgraceful!

  • This is the exception to free speech, yelling fire in a crowded theatre. Surely endangering lives and calling for unrest under these circumstances is illegal and prosecutable in our country

  • Such a good and poignant reflection Rebecca. Makes me scared just thinking about it! But you don’t mention the damage to the economy and the longer term effects of international companies pulling out because they do not see a future in our country. I have personal experience of this.
    Also, remember the rich who drove away in their luxury vehicles with stolen loot… RET my ass!!!
    Sadly, this woman and her comrades feel absolutely nothing for the poor they claim to represent. Hopefully those poor people will recognise this and vote accordingly in 2024?

    • Americans have taken no action against Trump ! The rich and powerful can commit crime with impunity while poor people are locket up for stealing food !

  • Dear Sirs – my understanding has always been, exhorting public riotous behaviour, is unlawful, has the law changed? Surely this call needs investigation and perhaps a trial!

  • In my eyes, this is treason. She was obviously not negatively affected by the rioting, she shows absolutely no compassion or any indication of a rational plan to run SA other than loot and destroy. Like Marie Antoinette, no idea what the peoples needs are.

  • If I a white man in this country hadstarted such tweets I would be in Jail right now pleading for my life. This is treason, or am I missing some basic facts here? those who started it last time should be locked up for good.
    Sorry she wont read this. too busy shopping with all the stolen loot. Hasnt worked a day in her life and I guess would not understand that it her fault that people died and the country is the worse for it. too ARROGANT with nothing to back it up! Despicable human being.

  • Blood sucking vampires don’t sleep, to answer the last question posed to her above-they merely hide in the dark watching the misery they sow unfold. Hope that clears that up..

  • Shame Rebecca, are you seriously trying to appeal to Duduzile Zuma’s better nature?
    Surely you understand by know, the type of person we are dealing with?
    There has never been an indication that anybody in the Zuma household has acted in the interest of anyone else other than themselves.

  • Surely this is treason? (promoting insurrection with the intention of changing the government.) After the July Riots Ramaphosa stated, “we know who they are” and undertook to deal with them. The NPA and SAPS were very quick to arrest civilians who neither instigated or participated in the riots, but were “over zealous” in protecting themselves and their property. But we are still waiting for the arrests of the main organisers and promoters. I suspect this may be because they hold positions of power in the ANC, and the law is applied based on political considerations.

  • A request to DM. Could you please publish any comments that Dudu may make to this open letter? Or would comments be beneath her?

  • Your article presupposes that this woman has either a sense of decency, a conscience or any genuinely recognisable intelligence. She is her father’s daughter and he proved over decades that all he cares about is his own comfort and lifestyle. A less caring family would be hard to find.

  • An excellent article detailing precisely why the Zuma clan has no love for the people of South Africa.
    I only wonder if this privileged woman will ever read, or understand it. (Can she read??)
    Indeed the Zuma’s Must Fall!

  • Surely this amounts to incitement for a revolution and surely that should be enough to arrest her. So why hasn’t she been arrested for this post. And similarly, why hasn’t she been arrested for her July 2021 tweets?

  • It is time for everyone in this country to put race, culture and gender aside and say:

    NO lawlessness.
    NO corruption.
    We want better for our loved ones.

    Only good will come of it in all aspects of all our lives.

  • A cretin. And a wicked one at that. A grifter.

    Her and her ilk: Gucci clad arm chair revolutionaries. String them up. And use their trendy Prada belts for nooses.

  • She’s like her dad, zero value, zero brains and literally only in it for themselves, be damned the country, law, etc. Infact I cannot even think that beyond being the spawn of the worst president in the history of Africa, and the most corrupt we know of, what is her claim to fame? She certainly isn’t bright, hard working or contributing anything worth talking about. I’m stumped? How does this box of sand get any airtime? And are people really stupid enough to even follow what she says?

    SA never ceases to amaze me.

  • I hold no hope that Dudu Zuma-Sambudla will even give your letter the consideration it deserves, never mind altering her behaviour. But thanks for trying.

  • She is a psychopath just like daddy. The only thing that matters is her rotten family and she will burn everything to protect them from accountability.

  • Be prepared Cyril, all the recent actions are coming to a head with corruption charges stalling a bit with Magashule and Mkhize, farmgate, and visits starting up again to JZ at Nkandla. You are responsible for intelligence now so you have no one to fall back on if the sherbert hits the fan. Bheki Cele has investigated the last treasonous insurrection and shown his competence. He must never ever use the phrase “I will leave no stone unturned”. Why is he still in this position, can he do an Arthur Fraser on you?

  • Zuma supporters are presenting JZ as a heroic victim of a CR controlled by foreign capital, local WMC, the IMF and the World Bank. Fact: Zuma was a neo-liberal who sold the country. He was bribed by French multinational corporations for arms deals, while he helped gut welfare and push privatisation under Mbeki; Zuma’s “state capture” scams routinely involved WMC and foreign Asian capital; Zuma implemented the IMF/ WB approved neoliberal GEAR as Deputy under Mbeki, and then as President. Almost every Zuma “state capture” scam was done through privatization e.g. Transnet contracts for railways and Eskom ones for coal. Even his much-vaunted NSFAS reforms in education took place through austerity e.g gutting municipal budgets and postgrad funding e.g. gutting NIHSS. Zuma’s police were at Marikana in 2013, and on campuses during #FMF… there wasn’t another commander-in-chief!

  • Only one word comes to mind when overthrow of the state is promoted; ” SEDITION”. If this then leads to loss of life/property /injury because of reckless ‘twittering’, Twitter and the twitterer should be liable. Incitement to violence is not free speech!

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted