I don’t mind if Niehaus sues me, says Herron on call for Hawks to probe ’WhatsApp insurrection evidence’
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Cape Town – ’’He can sue, I don’t mind, but I don’t think we have done anything defamatory or wrong. I handed over the evidence I was given to the Crimes Against the State Unit of the Hawks, who must investigate.’’
This was Good secretary-general Brett Herron’s response to IOL on Thursday on suspended ANC member Carl Niehaus’s threat to take action over the “baseless” statement the party made. Niehaus was alleged to have been been a member of a WhatsApp group named "FREE ZUMA INFORMATION, which was started on July 8, 2021 and was initially called “FREE ZUMA COORDINATORS.”
Niehaus – a prominent member of the Free Jacob Zuma campaign and a senior member of the RET (Radical Economic Transformation) forces – has already demanded that Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula retract a statement and apologise or face a lawsuit for comments he made on BBC HARDtalk that he was ’’in the forefront of undermining the rule of law’’ regarding the ’’insurrection’’ and ’’coup plotting'’.
Mbalula told the BBC: “Evidence is overwhelming, there are recordings in a sense that things that they planned to be going to do and they did.”
When asked who is ’’they“, Mbalula said: “Well, they are faceless... Those that we know at a political level is Carl Niehaus, who was in the forefront, and some other people around him who were basically in the forefront and calling for the undermining of the rule of law.”
Herron said they had identified three WhatsApp groups that were responsible for instigating the rioting and looting that reigned in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng for about a week soon after former president Zuma was jailed. The two other two groups, “SHUTDOWN ETHEKWINI” and ’’INK SHUTDOWN 10/07/2021’’, were set up on the morning of July 9.
’’They must investigate the role any of those individuals that are in those WhatsApps groups in the instigation. The one WhatsApp group had Niehaus’s name in the list of members for the entire conversation that I saw.
’’He exited the group at some point and this is for him to discuss with the investigating team. I can’t say for how long he participated. The conversations I saw had his name actually at the top of the list of names of group members.’’
Niehaus told IOL on Wednesday: “Here are the facts: I was added to the group called Free Zuma Information, and that was without my knowledge. I left the group the moment I was alerted that their intentions were not something I know, not because I have abandoned President Zuma.
“This is utter nonsense and cheap propaganda, and I reject it with the contempt it deserves.’’
Herron had said in the statement that, ’’according to the State, several key instigators have been arrested but there is little to indicate the extent or seniority of their involvement’’.
He told IOL: ’’We’ve seen some high-profile people involved who were outside of Nkandla for many days. We saw on social media the incitement. I think some of the statements from the JG Zuma Foundation were inciting.
’’The information I got are people who are largely unknown, but they were active participants in the violence and the insurrection that we all witnessed playing out for a couple of days. They must investigated. I don’ know if they were the instigators or the ones who were ’instigated’.
’’The State keeps talking about these 12 instigators that they have identified and that they were investigating, but no progress seems to have been made in announcing any action against them. And my concern is that South Africa just moves on to the next thing and this loses the energy behind it in terms of investigation and prosecution.
’’I got that information and it was clear to me it was coming from within the ANC and I had to be careful that I was not not playing in their factional battles.
’’So I had to assess the evidence I was given on its own merit, separate from the factional battles, and decided that the evidence was credible enough and that it needed to be investigated regardless of how I got it and what faction it helps.
'’The evidence wasn’t just something I could withhold from the State, given the shocking value of it. I am worried about how State agencies are going about this.
’’On the 6th of January the United States saw an insurrection when the Capitol was stormed. And their investigating authority, the FBI, was very active on social media, asking people to come forward and help them identify faces and voices.
’’I think the people of South Africa who stand by the rule of law, those people would like to participate if they can and the authorities should be reaching out to ordinary people like me, saying if you know anybody or anything about who was involved (in the insurrection), but they are not.’’
’’I think other people who have information should come forward and hand over evidence to the Crimes Against the State Unit so it can be investigated.
’’The world needs to see that those responsible for the insurrection are arrested and prosecuted. We are not alone in the world regarding this kind of politically motivated insurrection, but our authorities must be seen to be taking action.
’’So for the sake of credibility with investors and with political leaders and alliances and trade deals, if we are going to be a credible partner, then we need to follow up on this attack on our democracy.’’