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2021 RIOTS

July ’21 unrest — 65 in dock facing terrorism and other charges linked to deadly violence

July ’21 unrest — 65 in dock facing terrorism and other charges linked to deadly violence
Illustrative image: Former president Jacob Zuma and Chief Justice Raymond Zondo (Photos: Gallo Images / Volksblad/Mlungisi Louw | Gallo Images / OJ Koloti | Rawpixel)

Two years after the July 2021 upheaval left a trail of destruction and more than 350 people dead, 65 people arrested and implicated in the mayhem will finally face justice. Among the charges are terrorism, conspiring or inciting the commission of terrorism, sedition, conspiracy to commit murder, public violence, conspiracy to commit public violence and incitement to commit public violence.

The 65 alleged instigators charged in connection with the unrest and public violence in parts of KwaZulu-Natal in July 2021 appeared briefly in the Durban Magistrates’ Court on Friday, 17 November, where they were served with indictments and a summary of facts outlining the charges.

A trial date has been set and the accused will make their first appearance in the Durban High Court on 30 January 2024.

The charges are related to the violent mayhem created by alleged Jacob Zuma loyalists, including the accused, who went on the rampage.

Read more in Daily Maverick: One year ago, South Africa’s darkest eight days in 19 photos

Initial reports were that at least 281 people had been slain, but that was eventually revised to about 350.

On the main charge of terrorism, the State contends that the accused and others protested, conspired and incited the use of violence to campaign for Zuma’s release from prison, which resulted in acts of public violence, looting, disruption of normal activities, loss of life, damage to infrastructure and destruction of businesses and supply chains in and around KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma had been admitted to the Estcourt Correctional Centre to begin a 15-month sentence after being found in contempt of court for disobeying an order of the Constitutional Court that he appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.

The charge of conspiracy to commit murder relates to allegations that from 8 July to 15 July 2021, in various places across the country, the accused unlawfully and intentionally conspired with each other and/or other persons, known and unknown to the State, to aid or procure the commission of an offence, to unlawfully and intentionally kill Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Summary of facts

According to court documents, Zuma’s followers, including the accused, were outraged by the Constitutional Court’s order.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ConCourt finds Jacob Zuma guilty of ‘unprecedented’ contempt, seals sanction with 15-month jail sentence

Zuma was implicated in State Capture by more than 40 witnesses in three years of evidence heard by the commission. Zondo instructed the legal team at the inquiry to bring contempt of court charges against Zuma in the Constitutional Court after he failed to appear before the inquiry despite being summoned.

The summary of substantial facts says “several WhatsApp groups were created with the intention of organising, planning, inciting and coordinating violent incidents and looting that occurred mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and sporadically spread to other provinces in the country with the aim of pressuring the authorities to release Zuma”.

The following WhatsApp groups had initially been created and used: Free Zuma Coordinators (later changed to Free Zuma Information, or FZI), Ethekwini Shutdown (ETK) and INK Shutdown (INK).

FZI supposedly gave birth to the ETK and INK groups. According to the State, ETK was established to focus on the Durban City Centre and surrounding areas, while INK focused on Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu.

The accused allegedly joined and participated in the groups by invitation or through an invite link. According to the State, the groups were created and used as a communication tool by the accused and others known and unknown to the State for planning, inciting and carrying out activities such as road blocks, arson and attacks on the judiciary, infrastructure and the economy, thereby engaging in acts of terrorism.

The State contends that between 8 and 15 July 21021, in various locations within the country, the accused, along with others known and unknown to the State, engaged in unlawful and purposeful terrorist conduct by:

  1. Committing, performing or carrying out, or
  2. Facilitating, participating or assisting in or contributing to the commission, performance or carrying out of, or
  3. Performing an act in preparation for or planning of, or
  4. Instructing, directly or indirectly, a terrorist activity including the
    a. Systematic, repeated or arbitrary use of violence, or
    b. Endangering the life, or violating the physical integrity or physical freedom or, or causing serious bodily injury to or the death of, any person, or any number of persons, or
    c. Causing serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any segment of the public, or
    d. Causing the destruction of substantial damage to any property whether public or private, or
    e. Causing  serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, or the delivery of such an essential service, facility or system, or
    f. Causing any major economic loss or extensive destabilisation of an economic system or substantial devastation of the national economy, or
    g. Creating a serious public emergency situation or a general insurrection in the Republic.

This activity was allegedly intended to threaten South Africa’s unity and territorial integrity, intimidate, or to induce or cause feelings of insecurity within the public or a segment of the public, or to induce, cause or spread feelings of terror, fear or panic in a civilian population.

The first terrorist sentenced in democratic South Africa was right-wing extremist Harry Knoesen, who plotted a bloody coup and the genocide of black people in South Africa in November 2019. For terrorism-related offences he received two life sentences and 21 years in prison.

Other people convicted and sentenced so far in connection with the July 2021 unrest are:

  • Five convicted looters were sentenced in the Durban Regional Court. In June 2023 they were found guilty of being in possession of R80,000 worth of meat in their bakkie in the Chesterville township during the riots. The meat had been stolen from nearby Ayoba Cold Storage, which stored meat imported from Brazil;
  • In July 2023, the Durban Magistrates’ Court sentenced Mbuso Moloi (32) to three years. He was dubbed the “Mercedes looter” after a video of him carrying goods taken from a Woolworths store in Glenwood, Durban, went viral;
  • In August 2022, the Durban Magistrates’ Court sentenced Sihle Jali (41) and Sifiso Ngcobo (29) for their role in breaking into a shop in Durban’s Greenwood Park and stealing goods. They were charged with public violence and sentenced to five years in jail; and
  • In September 2022, Njabulo Ncube, another convicted July 2021 looter, was sentenced to an effective eight years’ imprisonment. He had been found guilty of housebreaking with intent to steal, and theft. He and a group of others broke into a shop in Umbilo and stole groceries. DM

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    Are Zuma’s offspring included in this list?

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      the sad part is after spending a lot of money they will discover the terrorist act is old and outdated we have heard that one before

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      not clear who is involved but the amended act of 2004 did try to deal with the destruction of property in terrorist act but the looting will muddy the waters because thats general theft of whatever scale, there are laws that deal with both in the criminal act and it will be much easier to prosecute but terrorism will be hard to prove if combined with looting in the same sentence hopefully this is not interntional

  • virginia crawford says:

    Why has it taken two years? And havec the odious Zuma offspring been charged?

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Going nowhere slowly,65 guppies,while leaving the sharks

  • John Forbes says:

    So are these any of the shadowy main instigators of the insurrection/riots of July 2021, or still the rats and mice that got caught up in it for personal gain?

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    I wonder how many years this trial will take? We’ll just have another sleazy bunch of lawyers lining up to line their pockets with delays, objections, trials within trials, farce, fury, pedantry, lies and all over again, clogging up the courts worse that Durban Port and giving two fingers to the people of South Africa in the process.

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    Shortly after this crisis had abated, Cele made reference the dirty dozen & promised that their arrest was imminent
    What also became clear was not only was the Security Cluster found wanting but that some of its more senior members may have been actively or tacitly complicit.
    None of these persons are amongst the 65 facing charges. In fact, apart from some minor ‘deck chair shuffling’ they continue to hold the same positions with the same influence they did previously.
    Indeed, I would assert that if any of the Architects behind the unrest were pursued this might actually trigger a similar event.
    Does anyone seriously believe that any of the 65 accused are the masterminds behind this?
    We don’t pursue cartel leaders, we don’t pursue construction mafia syndicates & we sure as hell don’t pursue persons guilty of sedition – all for the same reasons

  • Craig A says:

    Some of the main instigators were from the Zuma clan. What are the odds of any of them being on the list of 65?
    More taxpayers money will be spent on years of trials and they will end up with a slap on the wrist. This is a great opportunity for our government to show that that we have a real justice system and that they prosecute without fear or favour, but I don’t see it happening.

  • Fritz Jesch says:

    These are only the foot-men charged with all kinds of wrongdoing! The real instigators are most probaly untouchable, because “they have not ordered anything”!

  • Eunice van Wyk says:

    All I want to know, is whether the Zuma twins are among these accused. If not, why not?

  • Les Thorpe says:

    Arrests mean nothing in S.A. as convictions with appropriate sanctions are rare. I suppose most will get bail. Then most will dissappear “into the wind”. Standard procedure in S.A. If ever any are convicted (in, say, ten years’ time), they’ll get suspended sentences at most, i.e. no effective sanction whatsoever. S.A.’s criminal-friendly justice system is specially designed to allow perps the opportunity to return to the streets as soon as possible and continue their “occupations”. Even in the most unlikely case where one or two are jailed, they’ll be out after serving probably 30% of their sentence, sometimes even less.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    I expect no serious consequences for anyone other than some disposable foot soldiers at most. I hope to be proven wrong but I won’t be holding my breath.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The arrest and indictment of those behind the 21st July unrest is very commendable but it also raises questions firstly whether the state that bears the burden of proof has sufficient evidence to sustain the charges given the Mchunu case that fizzled out; secondly it is a trite matter that those who have been arrested are not master minds of the the 21st July unrest and may be just foot soldiers and the question is whether the master minds would ever be brought to book. Whilst the case is important to send a message that there is no impunity from justice no matter how long it takes, but to leave known instigators that were in the public media raises serious questions about the investigation as well as the prosecution. More importantly, there is the question of intelligence agencies that are in shambles. The departure of Thembi Majola in the SSA has sent shockwaves to those who know and understand her and what it takes to build a state security agency leaving an incompetent and delinquent MInister. More frightening, it is the state of the police intelligence and corruption that ravages it under the cloak of secrecy. This raises serious questions about the quality of intelligence. Human intelligence sources remain the best sources and cyber security whilst important, on its own it adds very little value and in courts it will take a hell of expertise to have evidence gathered through such sources to stick. As part of counter intelligence tools it is useful but no decisive.

  • Chris Orr says:

    At last it appears that some justice will be done.

  • David Forbes says:

    WHAT ARE THE NAMES OF THE ACCUSED? You can’t write a story like this without giving the public the names. If they appeared in court, then the names are available.

  • Debbie Annas says:

    One wonders why ringleader Carl Niehaus is not arrested for his role in this? Why would he be untouchable?

  • brendag says:

    That Insurrection really brought South Africa to its knees. I am surprised, delighted and thrilled that the perpetrators are at last being held to account for their despicable actions.

  • Michael Rice says:

    Well, who are they, these 65?

  • Graeme Bird says:

    Great news. The wheels of justice are slow but working.

  • Guy Reid says:

    Let’s hope that none of the 65 were innocent folk trying to protect their homes and businesses from the looters.

  • tom cobley says:

    Rats and mice.
    Bring the real crooks to court.
    40 times implicated during the Zondo commission and still super crook sits chewing on steak and fine wine in Nkandla.
    Why so scared of bringing him to justice.?
    Probably realise no police force to protect them from the hit men.
    Cry the beloved country.

  • William Dryden says:

    What about Zuma’s daughter who was instrumental in incitement through her WhatsApp chats.

  • David Peddle says:

    So few out of all those thousands who have effectively got away with either murder, attempted murder and or theft and so have been enjoying the fruits of their labour since then, with seeming little risk to their lives!

  • Andre Swart says:

    Please publish the list of offenders AND their political affilliation (party).

    We need to know who are the anarchists, killers, arsonists and looters among our community members!

  • Denise Smit says:

    Who are the arrested and implicated persons?

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    committing acts of terror does not seem the appropriate charge. Insurrection, sedition, looting, sabotage. even treason are more suitable charges.

  • Denise Wendy Muller says:

    It is high time that the public is at last informed that there has been some retribution meted out to those who caused such chaos in the country at that time. I would also like to see the people who planned that mayhem, be given severe sentences as well. And that was all for the sake of a person who, since 2009, has systematically and regularly brought this country to its knees, since he took over as head of government. Your time is running out, old man. Justice will catch up with you and you will get everything you deserve for destroying my beautiful country.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    Only 65? After 2 and a half years? There were hundreds caught on camera. There was also arson, shooting etc etc. Plus all the police seen standing watching (as in dereliction of duty) . This is a joke on decent South Africans.

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