July 2021 unrest instigator Mdumiseni Khetha Zuma sentenced to 12 years in jail
Mdumiseni Khetha Zuma, one of the instigators of the devastating July 2021 civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his part in encouraging others to commit public violence.
Mdumiseni Khetha Zuma was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment when he appeared on Wednesday in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court after being found guilty of contravening Sections 17 and 18 of the Riotous Assemblies Act.
The case stems from a video that Zuma created and shared on social media in which he notified others that the Brookside Mall in Pietermaritzburg would be closed at 6pm on 11 July 2021 and that, if they opened in the morning, people would enter the building and destroy everything.
Brookside was extensively looted and torched on 12 July.
Zuma was arrested on 28 August 2021 as one of the instigators of the devastating civil unrest. About 350 people died during the mass looting and violence that gripped much of KZN and parts of Gauteng.
The unrest was allegedly sparked by the jailing for contempt of court of former president Jacob Zuma (no relation to Mdumiseni Khetha Zuma), who started serving his sentence at the Estcourt Correctional Centre in the early hours of 8 July 2021.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) KZN spokesperson, Natasha Ramkisson-Kara, state prosecutor Yuri Gangai led the evidence of video footage, audio clips and the testimony of a guard who worked at the mall. Gangai also relied on the testimony of two translators of audio clips.
In aggravation of sentence, Gangai emphasised the evidence of the mall’s manager at the time it was burnt.
“The manager said that the estimated damage caused by the looting and fire was approximately R500-million. He further stated that the mall serviced five different communities, as well as about 5,000 people who collected their Sassa grants there. They have all been adversely affected by the burning down of the mall,” Ramkisson-Kara said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Cyril Ramaphosa: ‘Attempted July insurrection’ left two million jobless and wiped R50bn from the economy
Ramkisson-Kara went on to say that while the NPA in KZN has completed several cases related to the July 2021 unrest, this is the first in which an individual has been convicted and jailed for instigating the unrest.
“We hope that this sentence serves as a deterrent to others who intend on engaging in similar offences,” she said.
Meanwhile, two years after the July 2021 upheaval left a trail of destruction, 65 people arrested and implicated in the mayhem will finally face justice.
They face charges including 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.
Others convicted and sentenced so far in connection with the unrest include:
- 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 to three years in prison, wholly suspended for five years. The sentence included house arrest for 18 months. He was dubbed the “Mercedes looter” after a video of him carrying goods from a Woolworths store in Glenwood, Durban, went viral.
- In August 2022, the Durban Magistrates’ Court sentenced Sihle Jali and Sifiso Ngcobo to five years in prison for breaking into a shop in Durban’s Greenwood Park and stealing goods.
In September 2022, Njabulo Ncube, another convicted July 2021 looter, was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. He had been found guilty of theft after breaking into a shop in Umbilo and stealing groceries. DM