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SA Human Rights Commission to investigate and make recommendations on civil unrest that engulfed KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala at the home of Thulasizwe Vilakazi who was allegedly shot and stoned in Phoenix during the protests. Picture: Supplied

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala at the home of Thulasizwe Vilakazi who was allegedly shot and stoned in Phoenix during the protests. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 4, 2021

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DURBAN - An investigation panel from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will inquire into, make findings, report and make recommendations and/or directives concerning broad and overarching issues for investigation in relation to the civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July 2021.

The commission had hosted its second monthly media briefing last Friday, where it made the announcement.

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SAHRC chairperson, advocate Bongani Majola had provided an update on the National Investigative Hearing into the July 2021 unrest that ravaged particularly the provinces of KZN and Gauteng.

“The commission, therefore, seeks to investigate the causes of the unrest and assess its impact on human rights. Among others, Section 184(2) of the Constitution empowers the commission to investigate alleged violations of human rights and to take steps to secure appropriate redress where human rights have been violated,” Majola said.

He said the investigation panel would inquire into, make findings, report and make recommendations and/or directives concerning broad and overarching issues for investigation:

  • The causes of the July unrest, with particular focus on Gauteng and KZN.
  • The causes of the alleged racially motivated attacks and killings in the country.
  • The causes of the apparent lapses in law enforcement by state security agencies, particularly the SAPS; and the role of private security companies in the unrest.
  • The social, economic, spatial and political factors prevalent in the various affected areas and the extent to which these played a role in the unrest.

“The commission invites submissions from those who have information that can assist in this investigation. It will accept both written and oral submissions from any sources including but not limited to government departments, other state entities, business, civil society and other sources. Details, where the submissions can be forwarded to, will appear on the commission’s website,” Majola said.

In September the SAHRC announced that the National Investigative Hearing into the July unrest would start on November 15, 2021, and is planned to run for three weeks until December 3, 2021.

It was in August that the commission resolved to probe the unrest and launch the National Investigative Hearing to address some of the concerns emerging from the dialogue hosted on July 23 which was followed by a series of stakeholder engagements. The dialogue was an effort to find resolution toward circumstances that gave rise to events of the unrest.

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By the end of July, at least 251 people had been killed in KZN. The police had started investigating 163 cases of murder, and 87 inquest dockets had been opened and 20 arrests had been made for cases of murder related to the unrest.

Information also indicated that a number of key centres of the economy were negatively affected, such as 139 schools; 89 malls and shopping centres; 89 liquor outlets; 88 ATMs; 45 warehouses; 37 delivery trucks were burnt; 22 factories; eight banks; eight liquor distributors, and one hospital.

Billions of rands were also lost in stock, property and equipment.

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Majola said: “Many theories were advanced as to the cause of the unrest, however, what was important for the moment was that the period of unrest witnessed massive violations of human rights in the country. Law, being one of the important foundations of our democracy and our rights appeared to have been broken and defeated as pandemonium reigned especially in many parts of KZN and certain parts of Gauteng. Also, our law enforcement agencies that are critical for law enforcement appeared to have suffered unexplained paralysis.”

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