SANDF members patrolling the Durban CBD following days of looting and riots. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
SANDF members patrolling the Durban CBD following days of looting and riots. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Failed insurrection or attempted coup? Experts weigh in on SA unrest

By Se-Anne Rall Time of article published Jul 22, 2021

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DURBAN - Last week’s civil unrest was neither an insurrection nor an attempted coup. It was a carefully orchestrated plan to hold the government to ransom, say experts.

Professor Lawrence Hamilton from the Wits University's Department of Political Studies, Schools of Social Sciences, said it was too early to define the events that unfolded in the country last week.

"As far as I can tell, it is one faction of the ANC or a group of supporters of the Zuma alliance that had always intended to cause unrest. This was a means of holding government ransom if the court were to send Jacob Zuma to jail. There were inciters and a series of organised events that led to unrest out of desperation. There were also criminal networks involved," Lawrence said.

Fellow political expert Professor Daryl Glaser defined an insurrection as "any large-scale uprising that challenged the authority of the state" while an attempted coup occurs "when a small group of people, typically in the military, overthrow the state physically and put themselves in power".

"I took it verbatim - We don’t know whether any of the insurrection’s (so far mainly faceless) leaders imagined it culminating in a physical seizure of power. They more likely had more limited aims, to free Zuma and perhaps to discredit Ramaphosa," Glaser said.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, dismissed President Cyril Ramaphosa's claims that the unrest was a failed insurrection.

Last week, thousands of looters ransacked shops, malls and businesses in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng. What started as pro-Zuma protests quickly spiralled into chaos across two of South Africa's busiest hubs as hordes of people looted malls and shopping complexes. Several shops and businesses in KZN were then set alight.

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