SAHRC makes damning findings on July 2021 unrest

SAHRC chairperson Chris Nissen said they had to investigate what happened in July 2021. File Picture

SAHRC chairperson Chris Nissen said they had to investigate what happened in July 2021. File Picture

Published Jan 29, 2024


The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) found the July 2021 unrest was orchestrated by perpetrators who were well resourced.

However, the commission found that the incident coincided with the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, but “it could not find evidence to link the two events”.

The SAHRC and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) on Monday released their reports into the July 2021 unrest.

SAHRC chairperson Chris Nissen said after the events happened in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the commission sat down to discuss how this could be prevented in the future.

He said they had to investigate and find out more about the impact it had on human rights.

The commission conducted public hearings in the two provinces.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and various ministers appeared before the commission, said Nissen.

In the report, the commission found that damage to the economy was R50 billion and more than 350 people were killed.

“The evidence presented to the commission shows that acts which occurred during the unrest were indeed orchestrated,” the report found.

“The blocking of the N3 and the N2, the calculated destruction of factories and warehouses, the organised disconnection of security and fire alarm systems, the attack on government communication facilities at the Durban Port, and the bombing and removal of ATM’s – together, cannot be viewed as mutually distinct. These events point to a significant investment in the execution of the July unrest,” it read.

“The evidence further points to two types of actors in and during the July unrest. Primary actors who were well resourced, led and executed the widespread destruction of property, and perpetrated arson attacks. They in turn mobilised secondary actors, who participated in acts of theft at malls and other business premises.”

The report found that the police were ill-prepared for what happened. The police came under fire from other reports for failing to act during the July events.

In its findings the SAHRC said the fact that the police were ill-prepared for the riots could be something to do with training and resources to deal with the crisis.

There was a lack of action to crackdown on criminal elements who were looting, destroying and torching malls in the two provinces.

Ramaphosa had met with opposition parties a few days after the events unfolded and they recommended that the South African National Defence Force be deployed.

Thousands of soldiers were deployed in the affected areas and strategic centres.

The SAHRC also found that the jailing of Zuma could not be directly linked to the looting and violence in KZN and Gauteng provinces.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison by the Constitutional Court for refusing to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

The apex court found that Zuma was in contempt of the court.

The Zondo Commission, which concluded its work months later, after the July unrest, was investigating allegations that state coffers were looted during Zuma’s tenure.

The SAHRC report said while many people drew inferences that the incarceration of Zuma was linked to the July unrest, it could not find any evidence of this.

“However, the commission finds that while the timing of the events of the July unrest coincided with the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma, it could not find evidence to link the two events.”

The report has recommended that socio-economic factors must be addressed in the country to prevent similar incidents in future.

[email protected]

IOL Politics