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Eminent activists want more arrests for July Unrest, saying culture of impunity caused it

A Shop at Bridge City Mall after it was looted last year. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi African News Agency (ANA) Archives

A Shop at Bridge City Mall after it was looted last year. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Jun 22, 2022

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Durban - Almost a year since the country was gutted by the July 2021 unrest that left over 300 people dead, businesses looted and stirred racial tensions, a collection of civic groups and eminent activists from KwaZulu-Natal want prosecutions for the chaos.

The call to prosecute those responsible for the unrest is contained in a 29-page submission which was submitted to the SA Human Rights Commission sitting in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

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The commission is probing the unrest to find out what what exactly happened and its courses as there are different versions from different sources.

Verbally, the submission was made by ANC KZN stalwart, Ravi Pillay who is also the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

The submission, titled “Towards Nation-building”, was endorsed by prominent people like Professor Paulus Zulu, Ela Gandhi, Bishop Rubin Phillip and Ashwin Trikamjee, among others.

A mall which was looted and burnt in July last year following the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng /African News Agency (ANA)

They agreed that those behind it went ahead because they knew that they would not be hauled over the coals as the culture of impunity in the country has taken root.

“One of the underlying causes of the July unrest is the culture of impunity that pervades our society. For instance, over several years now, continuing violent and destructive protests by some in the trucking industry have damaged the economy, but no effective action has been taken against those responsible for such deeds.

“It is, therefore, not unreasonable to assume that those involved in the economic blockade of the N3 freeway in July 2021 did not expect the arm of the law to reach them, and hence acted with complete impunity.

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“The attacks on trucks especially at the Mooi River Toll Plaza needs special attention. It has been a hotspot for some time now. It was reported that 37 trucks were torched during the July unrest. Most of these incidents occurred at the Mooi River Toll Plaza.

“The following questions arise: a. This being a well-known hotspot for several years now, why was there no, let alone adequate, security deployment made in reasonable anticipation of more attacks there? b. The problems in the trucking industry have been well articulated in the public domain. The aggrieved stakeholders appear to be organised and make it clear that they will resort to unlawful means to achieve their demands. Yet investigations, arrests, prosecutions, convictions and deterrent sentencing appear to be non-existent. Is this another example of complete state failure?” reads part of the submission.

The groupings concluded their submission by calling for stiffer actions against those it said orchestrated the unrest for political reasons.

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“The primary cause of the unrest was the planned and coordinated instigation by persons who did so in pursuit of a political agenda. Such persons must be speedily identified and prosecuted.”

So far, the state has arrested three prominent people for inciting public violence during the unrest. They are former Ukhozi FM presenter and Jacob Zuma supporter, Ngizwe Mchunu, former Fees Must Fall activist, Bonginkosi Khanyile, and Lawyer Ike Khumalo.

They also arrested Sphithiphithi Evaluator (real name Zamaswazi Majozi) and later dropped charges against her.

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