JULY 2021 RIOTS
Further arrests on cards as 22 ‘riot instigators’ appear in KZN court, but Hawks mum on collaring masterminds
More than a year after violent unrest shook KwaZulu-Natal, a mass group of alleged instigators were rounded up and made a brief appearance in court on Friday. Amid questions about a possible breakthrough in terms of the top-level instigators, the Hawks said investigations are ongoing and indicated more arrests were imminent.
Twenty-two alleged instigators of the July 2021 unrest crammed into the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Friday in front of an overflowing gallery for a brief first appearance on charges of conspiracy to commit public violence, incitement of public violence, and arson.
Police have identified 84 suspects from various provinces, according to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, with the remainder expected to be arrested in the coming days.
It is understood that several of the accused that appeared on Friday — all barring one being from KwaZulu-Natal — are members of, or affiliated to, the African National Congress Youth League in the province.
All of the accused were released on bail of R3,000, while accused 14, Ntombizonke Zanele Mfeka, was released on a warning. The matter was remanded to 26 August for further investigations.
DPCI head Godfrey Lebeya has “hailed the investigation and prosecution team for their meticulous work”, but it still remains unclear if any of the so-called “masterminds” of the “failed insurrection” are among the 84 suspects.
Significantly, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, the daughter of former president Jacob Zuma, was not among the newly arrested.
At the time of the unrest, Zuma-Sambudla flung out a number of tweets that appeared to be intended to provoke the thousands of criminals that took to the streets of KwaZulu-Natal, and to a lesser extent Gauteng, following the arrest of her father on contempt of court charges.
Hawks KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson, major general Lesetja Senona, who was at the courthouse, told media that Zuma-Sambudla was under investigation pursuant to a case being opened by Democratic Alliance MP, Glynnis Breytenbach. Once that investigation was complete, he said, a decision would have to be taken by the NPA about prosecution.
Breytenbach, the opposition party’s shadow minister of justice and correctional services, laid incitement to violence charges against Zuma-Sambudla, her twin Duduzane Zuma, their half-brother Edward Zuma, and EFF leader Julius Malema, on 14 July 2021, while the literal dust from the unrest was still settling. The charges relate to various utterances made on social media at the time of the riots and, in the case of Edward, for statements he made prior to the arrest of his father.
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When asked on Friday specifically about investigations into the masterminds of the unrest, not the alleged instigators, the Hawks national spokesperson, brigadier Thandi Mbambo, told Daily Maverick: “The investigations into these July unrests incitement is ongoing, but we cannot at this stage indicate who will be arrested in future until such time [as] the particular individuals have been arrested, as this will jeopardise our investigation.”
The first group of newly arrested alleged instigators to appear are:
God’s Surprise Ntuli (48)
Sanele Mhlongo (31)
Smangaliso Zwane (31)
Mbongeni Cyril Mzimela (29)
Sipho Stanley Tchezi (39)
Nkanyiso Goodman Dlamini (32)
Ncamisile Ndlovu (43)
Sthembiso Phumlani Mthiyane (40)
Zanele Bhengu (42)
Malibongwe Mlamuli Khubeka (49)
Sisanda Nomcebo Ntshona (43)
Sifiso Artwell Sokhulu (33)
Thobile Berryl Mfeka (48)
Ntombizonke Zanele Msalela (42)
Sanele Zanele Masuku (29)
Sandile Cebekhulu (49)
Mduduzi Emmanuel Mkhize (42)
Qedukazi Blessing Dladla (49)
Mbongeni Sydney Mkhize (age not stated)
Lindokuhle Wiseman Shilenge (32)
Lwazi Devon Memela (39) and Sibusiso Blessing Gwala (46) were arrested on Friday and appeared after the first 20 suspects. A third man, who lives in the North West province and whose name remains unknown, was also arrested on Friday. He is expected to make his first appearance on Monday.
Prosecution status of previously arrested alleged instigators
The DPCI has previously arrested 19 alleged instigators. According to a response from the minister of justice and correctional services to a question asked by DA leader John Steenhuisen last week, the status of prosecutions in those arrests is as follows:
Orifile Oratile Sedika: The matter was struck off the roll in terms of section 342A of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 due to delays in the investigation.
Crispin Bethwell Sibongiseni Sikhakhane: The matter was adjourned to 2 August 2022 for legal representation and instructions.
Themba Gundwane Emmanuel Minisi: The matter was postponed for plea.
Montsamai Phineas Letsoalo: The matter was provisionally withdrawn for further investigations to be conducted.
Bonginkosi Khanyile: The matter was postponed for plea and trial purposes to 15 to 26 August 2022.
Mdumiseni Kheta Zuma: The matter was remanded to 10 May 2022 for the outcome of consultations and attorney to confirm fees. Trial was set for 4 to 5 August and 1 to 2 September 2022.
Zamaswazi Zinhile Majozi: The matter was struck off the roll and subsequently declined to prosecute.
Joe Bernington Mabaso: The matter was withdrawn on 30 May 2022 due to insufficient evidence.
Mbonani Clarance Tabane: The matter was withdrawn on 20 October 2021.
Brian Ngizwe Mchunu: The matter was adjourned for plea and trial to 12 to13 October 2022.
Bruce Nimmerhoudt: The matter was postponed for plea and trial.
Sibusiso Mavuso: The matter was withdrawn on 15 March 2022 due to insufficient evidence.
Sabelo Msomi: The matter was postponed for trial.
Ike Thamsanqa Khumalo: The matter was remanded to 19 August 2022 for the results of the Mutual Legal Assistance application to the USA.
Solani Silawule, Sifiso David Nhlapo, Daluxolo Sizwe Weyi and Cebolazakha Sabelo Zondo: The Deputy Public Prosecutor did not pursue incitement charges, but theft charges. The case is no longer being monitored as an incitement case. The matter was last in court on 22 June 2022.
Mandla Mahlangu: The matter was withdrawn on 7 December 2021.
A total of 354 people were killed in the unrest, the vast majority of them looters in KwaZulu-Natal who were crushed or killed by other looters while scrambling for stolen goods. Initial figures released by government estimated that the damage from the unrest had cost the country about R50-billion, but the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in July that the riots had cost eThekwini’s private sector R70-billion, with that amount expected to increase.
Findings of a high-level panel that was set up to investigate the cause of the unrest confirmed the country’s bureaucratic security apparatus failed in the face of its biggest test in post-apartheid South Africa.