On Friday 12 October, Zenzile Nyenye and Siyakhele Kwazile were arrested and subsequently denied bail. The charge is that they murdered Daluvuyo Bongo, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) North West branch secretary who was shot dead on 5 October.
But did they do it? The short answer is that we do not know.
We may never know. I myself am not in a position to argue that they are necessarily innocent. What I can say is that there is a worrying likelihood that there is a lack of compelling evidence against them. This is an educated guess, given the way in which the South African government’s security apparatus operates.
It is not impossible that Bongo was killed by agents of the South African government, in the interests of creating conditions that would enable the state to institute repressive measures against people associated with worker mobilisation in Marikana and beyond.
A diversion; just add scapegoats.
Before you label me a conspiracy theorist, bear with me as I explore what we do know for sure, and attempt to make sense of it.
ARREST AND TRIAL AS A REPRESSIVE INSTRUMENT
Tactics of this kind have, of course, been used in South Africa before. In 1956, for instance, Nelson Mandela was one of 156 people, all of them associated with the ANC and Congress Alliance, who were arrested. Criminal proceedings were instituted against over 90 of the accused in two separate trials. Neither of these resulted in the conviction of a single person. A group of 30 accused, including Mandela himself, were finally acquitted in March 1961. The 1956 to 1961 treason trial was an initiative of the Apartheid government to disorganise and undermine the opposition.
It was in discussions between some of those who were on trial during this protracted period that discussion began around the idea that it would be necessary to pursue armed struggle. The armed struggle was initiated in the period after the Sharpeville crisis of 1960, and the finalisation of the treason trial in March 1961. It was due to his involvement in the launch of Umkhonto we Sizwe that Mandela, and the other Rivonia trialists, were then successfully convicted and sentenced to imprisonment in 1964.
From 1960 onwards, repression in South Africa intensified more generally. However, though some use continued to be made of trials based on spurious or flimsy evidence, the Apartheid state did not rely on this as a repressive measure and generally only brought people to trial when it had substantial evidence against them.
There was no need for the state to bring people to trial in order to neutralise them politically, as it had a range of other repressive technologies – most notably detention without trial and banning orders – that made bringing people to trial unnecessary.
It was therefore only in select cases, against high profile people such as in the two treason trials of UDF leaders in the 1980s, that trials on flimsy evidence were used as a strategy.
THE SECURITY APPARATUS
Particularly since the ascent to power of Jacob Zuma, the ANC has vigorously pursued an agenda of consolidating its power over the state security apparatus. Some see this as primarily motivated by the concern to protect President Zuma from the further risk of prosecution for corruption.
But, viewed more pessimistically, it is possible that there is a more expansive agenda, similar to that of ZANU-PF; namely, using state machinery to consolidate their overall political and economic power.
The key members of the current “securocracy” would need to be part of a KwaZulu-Natal-centred inner circle, with some having links to the ANC’s exiled underground machinery.
There are enough potential candidates to fill the vacancies if this were true. President Zuma himself was Chief of ANC intelligence in the late 1980s, whilst Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe was part of ANC underground operations. Zuma, Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa, Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe, and Minister of Intelligence Siyabonga Cwele, are all from KwaZulu-Natal.
Along with consolidating control over the security apparatus, members of this central, powerful group would also need to be involved with key economic sectors such as the mining industry. Minister of Mining and Energy Resources, Susan Shabangu, for example, would be a strong potential connection for the “inner circle” or “securocracy”.
The current refusal by the National Prosecuting Authority to release tapes that allegedly provided the basis for the withdrawal of the charges against Zuma in 2008 is merely one manifestation of the way in which the state security apparatus now serves directly as an instrument of this group. The NPA has refused to hand over the tapes to the Democratic Alliance, notwithstanding the fact that they were ordered to do so by the Supreme Court of Appeal seven months ago. Another prominent manifestation of this agenda has been the protracted saga of the Information Bill.
But in analysing the current functioning of the South African state, it is important not to stop at these more formal and visible manifestations of the agenda. Many South Africans are for, instance familiar, with the fact that Richard Mdluli, a former member of the Apartheid security police, was appointed as head of crime intelligence within the South African Police Service (SAPS), and his appointment defended despite the fact that he was suspected of murder and corruption. But few people are aware that the SAPS continue to work with former members of the Civilian Cooperation Bureau (CCB). A former CCB operative, Barry Bawden, assisted the SAPS with the infiltration of the right-wing Boeremag. Bawden is reported to have a “personal relationship” with President Zuma.
So how likely is it that the political killings in KZN could take place without some level of state collusion?
These killings are currently taking place at a rate greater than the national rate of such killings in the 1985-1989 period, which were some of the most violent years of the Apartheid era. A 1998 book published by the Human Rights Committee, Crime against Humanity, indicates that “Speculation as to the base for” hit squad assassinations “inevitably leads to state security structures”. This “would also explain the virtually complete absence of success on the part of the police in solving these numerous mysteries”, the book says.
A general feature of political killings in KwaZulu-Natal is that no one is held responsible for them. This includes the large number of killings of ANC members. Available information is that for the more than 40 killings of ANC members since the beginning of 2009, only one person has been convicted. Information recently released is that alleged police death squads have included not only that in Cato Manor, but also another one based in Port Shepstone.
Another phenomenon that points to the involvement of the state security machinery in illicit activity, often apparently intended to neutralise political (rather than security) risks to the current political administration, is the phenomenon of break-ins where computers with sensitive information are stolen whilst other valuable items are not taken. One victim of this phenomenon was involved in a legal matter in which Richard Mdluli was implicated. Another was involved in carrying out research into the arms deal. It would therefore appear that there are elements within the South African security apparatus that are not averse to the use of ‘dirty tricks’.
The transformation of Operational Response Services (ORS) division of the SAPS into an explicitly political instrument of the state, as demonstrated in the ORS operation in Wesselton in February 2011, is another manifestation of this agenda. The police operation in Wesselton can be seen as something of a template for that which took place in Marikana in August. In both operations, for instance, those who had been involved in the protests were subsequently arrested, with a large number of them being tortured. Following the Wesselton operation, this lead to 25 charges of assault being lodged with the Independent Complaints Directorate. In Marikana, this led to 94 cases of assault being lodged with the ICD’s successor, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
In both cases it is also alleged that specific individuals amongst the police who were involved in torture focused on a more specific objective. In Wesselton it was to get some of the arrested people to confess that political opponents of Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza had instigated the protests. In Marikana, the alleged objective of these torturers was to obtain ‘confessions’ that Julius Malema had instigated the protests. http://www.citypress.co.za/Politics/News/Mdluli-man-behind-torture-20120908
The political manner in which the state security apparatus operates was also demonstrated by the decision of the NPA to prosecute the arrested miners for the death of their colleagues, charges that were only ‘provisionally withdrawn’ following a massive public outcry.
That the instability in Marikana was given as the reason to deploy the military to numerous parts of the country on the weekend of the 15-16 September itself may be taken to illustrate the general orientation of the “securocracy”. It provided an ideal opportunity to consolidate power further by “securitising” the situation.
THE NATIONAL UNION OF MINEWORKERS
President Zuma, and the group of securocrats that are linked to him, currently have their backs against the wall. This is not because they are losing control of the state security apparatus. Their strategy of consolidating control over it has to a significant degree been successful. But as the Economist recently pointed out, if the ANC elects Zuma at Mangaung, this will demonstrate that they do not understand what has gone wrong in South Africa.
Outside of the powerful sections of the Tripartite alliance, and a few other groups that have a vested interest in the status quo, Zuma’s credibility is in tatters. His control over the security apparatus means that he has real power, but he is desperate to find ways to shore up his legitimacy. To do this he needs to retain the support of, and protect the credibility of, his key political allies.
As indicated, in Wesselton the political intervention by the ORS division of the SAPS was intended to uphold the interests of Zuma’s political ally, David Mabuza. Whilst it is widely argued that the Marikana operation involved complicity between the state and big business, it would appear that the key interests that the police operation were intended to protect may not have been those of the mining bosses. Instead they may have been those of the NUM.
As discussed by Richard Pithouse, the NUM has been extraordinarily persistent in making allegations that a “third force” was behind the killing of Daluvuyo Bongo and other NUM members in Marikana. They have never produced any evidence to support these allegations. But it appears clear that their intention is to promote the idea that the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), and the striking miners, are behind the attacks on NUM members. In fact, NUM went so far as to state directly that AMCU was behind the assassinations in an article published in the government mouthpiece, the New Age. Despite having no evidence for this assertion, they refused to apologise for it.
The possibility that the NUM is working hand-in-glove with the state security apparatus is also supported by two remarkable coincidences during the week of the Marikana massacre. On the day that the ORS division of the SAPS started being brought en masse into Marikana, the NUM called for the deployment of a “special task force” (the “Special Task Force” is an elite unit that is a component of the ORS division). On 16 August, prior to the launch of the police operation that culminated in the Marikana massacre, the NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni allegedly said that NUM members and branch leaders were placed on a hit list that “originated from a hostile group that was leading the protest”.
No evidence was produced to support this serious allegation.
Might it be possible that this announcement was intended to help legitimise the heavy-handed measures that police anticipated that they would resort to?
As Jared Sacks reported in the Daily Maverick, the state also did nothing to investigate the widespread allegations of killings of protesting miners by armed men from the local NUM office on 11 August, just after the strike at Lonmin had started. Sacks’s research concludes that it was the alleged failure on the part of the police to respond to these killings that can be seen as having been a direct cause of the fact that workers armed themselves.
It is not only Zuma and the securocrats who have their backs against the wall. The NUM does too. Related to the disposition of its senior leadership to become part of South Africa’s moneyed elite, it has lost touch with workers in the mining industry. And its vested interests will be in real jeopardy if Zuma does not retain power at Mangaung. The interests of the current ANC and NUM leaderships are therefore inextricably intertwined.
WHO, THEN, KILLED DALUVUYO BONGO?
The short answer is that we do not know. But, if the analysis contained within this article is not wrong, the horrible, terrifying possibility exists that Bongo was sacrificed in order to create the space for, and legitimise, the deployment of state agencies for purposes of repression.
Our Constitution provides that people are assumed to be innocent until they are proven guilty. Nyenye and Kwazile can therefore be presumed innocent, for now.
But given what we know of the current state system and the circumstances surrounding their arrest, one hopes it is not reasonable to go even further – to assume that their arrest was part of a sinister government agenda. That would be an alternative too frightening to contemplate. DM
This article was first published by The South African Civil Society Information Service. It has been edited for use on Daily Maverick.
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