SAHRC blames crime intelligence for 2021 riots

Motor vehicles were set alight on Phoenix Highway during the unrest in Phoenix, north of Durban. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Motor vehicles were set alight on Phoenix Highway during the unrest in Phoenix, north of Durban. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 30, 2024


Durban — The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) have blamed the government for failing to protect the victims of the 2021 July unrest which claimed the lives of more than 335 people in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The COO of SAHRC, Philile Ntuli, revealed that the historical war between Africans and Indians in Cato Manor in 1949 and Inanda in 1985 was one of the reasons behind the rioting.

“Submissions received by the hearing panel suggest the incidents that occurred in Phoenix and surrounding areas were, and continue to be, reviewed by some in the Indian community as necessitated by a legitimate concern that African people would, once they had looted all shops, descend on their neighbourhoods and homes to steal.

“As this propaganda travelled through social media channels, some communities, partnered with security companies, and formed street committees to regulate movement and protect their neighbourhoods. Yet, amid the absence of evidence to legitimise the threats, what is left is a reconstruction of a historical trauma of that of fearsome African men or a mob of fearsome African men,” Ntuli said.

Ntuli furthermore lambasted crime intelligence for failing to execute a safety plan that could have safeguarded the public.

THE South African Human Rights Commission COO Philile Ntuli delivering a report on the July Unrest Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/ Independent Newspapers

During the unrest, former Ukhozi FM presenter Ngizwe Mchunu was an alleged public violence instigator accused of influencing the public to cause chaos while Jacob Zuma was detained in Estcourt Correctional Services.

Zuma was sentenced by the Constitutional Court to 15 months in prison for contempt of court for refusing to appear before a judicial commission investigating corruption during his nearly decade-long presidency.

He was jailed on July 8, 2021, but released two months later to complete his sentence under house arrest.

The Constitutional Court reserved judgment on Zuma’s application to rescind his sentence on July 12, 2021.

However, the SA Human Rights Commission said that it had found no evidence linking the arrest of Zuma to the 2021 July unrest.

Another offender linked to encouraging the public to commit violence was Mdumiseni Zuma from Pietermaritzburg. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail by the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate's Court in November.

CRL Rights chairperson Professor Luka Mosoma said: “We recommend that the lives of Africans in rural and urban communities must be promoted as the first priority through legislation and ongoing programmes of action which can assist them to develop economically and improve their socio-economic conditions.”

The commission stated that the unrest was characterised by the loss of life, the targeting of retail centres, malls, shops and other businesses, schools as well as transport systems.

Reports state that damages emerging from the claims being dealt with by the State insurance company amounted to R25 billion.

Commission spokesperson Gushwell Brooks said the unrest deepened unemployment, poverty and rampant socio-economic inequality.

Also, of concern to the commission, were allegations of excessive use of force, racial profiling, assaults, arson and killings in some places.

It has been suggested that the unrest was orchestrated, that there was a high degree of organisation and instigation that led to the unrest, and that the authorities ought to have known and adequately prepared to secure the various towns and cities affected.

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