Durban riots - Myths debunked and strategy suspected
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This month’s rioting and looting were the manifestation of a concerted, sophisticated attempt to lubricate the traditional cleavage line in South Africa, which is race.
And it failed.
This is according to environmental and intelligence expert Professor Anthony Turton who this week addressed the Port Shepstone Rotary Club on the events of the week before in KwaZulu-Natal.
“We saw a spontaneous organisation of civil society across racial lines. It was a transformative moment,” he said.
He said it also revealed the myth of the omnipresence of the ANC as a party of government, which reminded him of things he’d seen as an intelligence officer in eastern Europe in the 1980s.
“The Berlin Wall had this powerful omnipresence. Nobody thought it would fall but old ladies and malnourished people ended up taking pieces of it and not a shot was fired.”
Turton said he also attended the trial of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu who, when sentenced to death by a military tribunal, “slammed his fist on to the table and pointed his finger at the judge saying ‘you are illegal, I am the president, soon the door will open and my forces will come in and arrest you’.
“But he was taken out and shot.”
Turton said the myth of former president Jacob Zuma being in control had been exposed. So had the myth of racial tension in South Africa.
“The myth of South Africa having an inept civil society has also been exposed. It is capable of filling the vacuum left by a failing state.”
Turton, who played a role in setting up Codesa, also said the event held between 1990 and 1993 to end apartheid happened because “no one was able to have a victory”. Today there are parallels to that situation.
“Now, the military is involved in South Africa and Mozambique. It’s the same situation that the Nationalists had. They were unable to do both an internal uprising and fight a war in Angola, so they had to negotiate.”
Another was the outflow of capital when 5% of the gross domestic product left South Africa’s shore towards the end of the apartheid era and, today “25%, trending 30%” is leaving.
“The difference is that the five percent was institutional investments and the 25% was individuals looking after their savings.”
“If it wasn’t for (the 5% loss in GDP) there would have been no Codesa.”
Back to the recent riots and looting, Turton said they were not spontaneous events but had demonstrated sophisticated planning and special forces precision.
He said the South Coast had been the stage for a number of dry runs, the most recent six weeks ago when rioters simultaneously took over choke points and blocked the free movement of people between Hibberdene and Port Shepstone.
“There appeared to be different mobile forces unleashed in a co-ordinated way, capable of reaching a specific objective.”
Over the past two years, in Port Shepstone, 18-wheel trucks carrying food to retail outlets had been targeted and hijacked, he said.
“What’s remarkable about this is that the police have been present, visible and never lifted a finger to prevent the looting of these trucks. They too were a series of dry runs to test whether police were capable of responding.”
Also, over the past few years, the targeting of the water infrastructure in the Ugu Municipality appeared to have been selected by people with intelligence backgrounds.
“They involved minimum effort for maximum effect.”
Last week’s riots appeared to involve sophisticated command and control.
“Crowds, with social media, were designed to mobilise along racial lines. The good news is that it failed. From the community came the spontaneous emergence of a militias. They happened on their own.”
Turton added that while Zulu people were involved in the riots and looting, it was not a Zulu uprising.
“Zuma tried to present it as one having the amabutho regiments at Nkandla before he went to prison. The Zulu king censured that commando.
“It was a criminal uprising, not a Zulu uprising.”
He said he sees “a hard reset coming”, which included the ruling party “needing to have a deep internal conversation with itself”.
“It’s in our interest to have a strong ANC, one capable of attracting capital, rather than a regime change,” he said.
He said investment was the only way to address the “ticking time bomb“ of youth unemployment and it would be possible only by achieving the rule of law.
The Independent on Saturday