Opinionista Vuyolwethu Zungula 15 July 2021

Ramaphosa should have been on the frontline assuring that the state was in control

It will not be in the best interests of justice to arrest the large numbers of poor and unemployed people who were hoodwinked into joining the looting. Criminal records will condemn them to a doomed future.

Vuyolwethu Zungula

Vuyolwethu Zungula is president of the African Transformation Movement (ATM) and is a Member of Parliament.

It was inevitable that thousands of poor, unemployed and desperate youths would be mobilised to join the looting spree sweeping the country. The warning signs have been there for quite a while.

Close to 2,000 people have been arrested so far, with the number of deaths increasing as the crisis continues. Out of desperation, an army of unemployed youths, young girls, grannies and children joined in the looting which appears to have been orchestrated by thugs. 

Should the state arrest all the hundreds of thousands of people who became party to looting? Absolutely not. It will not be in the best interests of justice to arrest in large numbers poor and unemployed people who were hoodwinked into joining the looting.

It will be an absolute travesty of justice to condemn them to having criminal records when most were forced to steal because of hunger. This will condemn them to a doomed future. 

Instead, it is the state’s responsibility to find the masterminds who engineered this heinous crime.

Behind this all, we need to consider that the government under President Cyril Ramaphosa has failed to put young people at the centre of the economy. Since the advent of democracy, the many government job creation programmes have failed.

Stats SA’s latest figures on unemployment are disheartening, showing the hopelessness of many job seekers. The expanded definition of unemployment, which includes those discouraged from seeking work, increased to 42.6% in the fourth quarter.

Shockingly, about 63.2% of those between 15 and 24 are at the centre of the unemployment crisis. Black Africans, especially women, are the most affected, with no prospects for the future. This is the same group that has been used to bolster the looting across mostly KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.

What has been exposed is the weak state, with its incapable security cluster comprising the intelligence, police and state security branches. Prior to the burning of the country, the ground was fertile and it was simple for opportunists to seize the moment and launch their attack. 

Did the intelligence services know beforehand about the plan to destabilise our country? Why didn’t they act in time to prevent chaos?

For a long time, there has been a leadership vacuum in our communities. The result of this saw the president deploying the army on its own citizens — something that should be a last resort after all else has been tried. Leaders from all arms of government should have been on the ground engaging with communities to avert the chaos.

President Ramaphosa has missed an opportunity to lead from the front. He should have been the first on the ground, assuring the nation and international community that the state was in control. DM

Vuyolwethu Zungula is president of the African Transformation Movement (ATM) and is a member of Parliament.


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All Comments 12

  • cr doesn’t have the b$lls nor the integrity to be on the frontline. He knows very well that he is party to the cause of the mayhem – the anc above all ….

  • The President could not have assured the nation and the international community that the state was in control – it would have been a lie. The President like the rest of the elite were safely in their bunkers while the country burned.

  • Only a complete reassessment of the ANC’s failed outdated policies will give hope to the poor.
    Analysis of all emerging economies that have successfully improved the lot of the poor shows that market friendly are the only way. Our labour laws make it way too onerous to begin too think of starting a labour intensive enterprise. The failure of our education through Union hegemony and lack of accountability has also lead to the lack of wide scale upward mobility of the poor.
    The reformist elements of ANC has to pivot into market friendly policies to revive good governance, and to grow the economy. Only partnership with private enterprise can achieve this.

  • Can’t agree more “President Ramaphosa has missed an opportunity to lead from the front. He should have been first on the ground, assuring the nation and international community that the state was in control.” The state was clearly out of sync with reality and Ramaphosa showed no emotion, he might as well have been talking about the Covid state of affairs!
    The writer’s plea for sympathy with the unemployed has merit because of the utter and total failure of the ANC and their “white collar” looting of the SA Coffers, but people “like the CEO of a large insurance company who was caught red handed and others like employed people and policeman mut face the full wrath of the law and it must be brutal!!

  • In as much as I agree that the leadership of this country failed dismally in their handling of this crisis, I can’t help but be sceptical and suspicious of your intentions in writing this opinion piece as leader of the ATM. It is well acknowledged that your political party is simply a proxy for the ANC RET brigade, the very same who supported and propped up Zuma throughout his unfortunate reign, and who helped lobby for and put in place the policies and individuals who looted the coffers of the state and hollowed out its democratic institutions, if not taking part directly in the looting. Mzwanele Manyi, your policy head, is a close Zuma acolyte. I don’t think you have the moral high ground to cast stones at the government, as much as they need stoning.

  • Zuma had 9 years to “help the poor”. Which policies and programs did he implement during those nine years as the RET administration? Get real. “The poor” are but cannon fodder for the real criminals who took what they could during those nine years – and this orchestrated campaign was their attempt to claw back some political power. The last thing this is about is Ramaphosa.

  • Ramaphosa rushing into the fray would have been the dream opportunity for the instigators to assassinate him and have a Wildly successful coup. Not a clever move to help the traitors in their ambitions.

  • This article is spouting after the event. Unemployment growing in Zuma, RET, corruption period. During Cyril’s time there have been some policies being implemented but he is being fought at every turn. I don’t vote ANC but as a Member of Parliament are you just repeating DA chirps. I was a bit despondent last night on CNN when Steenhuisen spoke, easy to point fingers at ANC, but a leader would offer support to get out of this next crisis period hopefully only a couple of weeks and then get back into politicking after. Where are you?

  • It is ridiculous to expect Ramaphosa to go for photo ops to demonstrate “leading from the front” when he realised the state was not in control. He spent three days working day and night to respond and get the state, business, community and the security and emergency and disaster apparatus to respond coherently. By Thursday peace and order were re-established. Friday was the first time he had time for photo ops. That is leadership as it should be.


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