It would be good to see Jacob Zuma released from prison, says Premier Zikalala
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Durban - Stopping short of calling for the immediate release of former president Jacob Zuma from an Estcourt prison, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said it would be good to have the former head of state released.
Zikalala said this from Durban on Tuesday, in response to media questions about whether releasing Zuma from his prison cell would help quell the crippling violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
He said that although he would be happy to see Zuma going through the proper legal structures, the acts of criminality that had taken root during the protest should not go unpunished, warning that they had enough prison capacity to jail those found guilty.
“There are two factors. One factor is the genuine cry for the release of former president Zuma. That must be understood, listened to but it must be done and advanced peacefully and within the law.
“There is nothing wrong with people who call for the release of the former president, if they do so within the law and not disrupting other people, not interfering with the right of other people and we, especially as the ANC, support that… We will call for that through following due processes within our law and following our constitutional framework. It would be good to see president (Zuma) released. But that cannot justify vandalism and violence,” he said.
Zikalala pleaded for calm, saying Zuma fought for peace and reconciliation and the violent protest and looting were destroying his legacy.
He said 26 lives had been lost as a result of the violence and 187 people had been arrested. He did not give the exact areas where the deaths happened but said most of the deaths were the results of stampedes.
Zikalala revealed that the reason why the police have been found wanting was that they treated it as a genuine protest, up until criminality crept in. At that point, the police were given reinforcements.
“With regard to the slow response of police, we understand that in many areas… police initially took this as protest and they were not prepared to respond in a manner that could lead to the loss of life… They have reinforced their capacity not to use violence but to protect people and assets,” he said.
Regarding the presence of the SANDF, Zikalala said they would not like to publicise their exact location but said they would be all over the province, working with the police also protecting national key points such as government buildings and national freeways.
On reports that the violence and looting had taken a racial turn where different races were fighting one another and some businesses were rationing services by serving a certain race only, Zikalala pleaded for the situation “not to be racialised”.