Durban - Amid the unending debate over whether the unrest and looting that rocked KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng almost two weeks ago, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala, says it was not a coup, but warns that if the violence continued unabated, it would have led to one.
Supporting his point, Zikalala drew inferences from the October Russian revolution of 1917 and the recent Venezuelan protests of March 2020, saying they started as protests over basic commodities and led to coups or attempted coups.
He made these remarks while conducting an exclusive interview with the Daily News newspaper in Durban on Thursday.
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Stressing his point, Zikalala said both sides in the debate were not entirely wrong, but it was better to look at the matter and holistically understand what happened before making conclusions.
“The reality is that your October revolution in Russia started over a complaint around bread. So a coup could be started by anything that talks to dissatisfaction; then it escalates. That is what we have seen recently in Venezuela, where the industries hoard products and products were not in stores and they became expensive, then they thought that the government of the progressive party would be taken out. So in this case you would want to stick more on whether it was a coup or not,” he said.
Among those who have claimed that the unrest was an insurrection or attempted coup was President Cyril Ramaphosa and Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul, among others.
On the other side, the ANC in KZN, mainly its provincial secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli, differed, saying it was not an attempted coup or an insurrection.
As the interview touched on several issues affecting the province, Zikalala was asked about the Phoenix massacre, where over 20 innocent people were allegedly killed by vigilante groups in the Indian-dominated township of Phoenix, in Durban.
In response, Zikalala said what was of utmost importance now was getting the vigilantes arrested, and later engage in reconciliation efforts between racial groups. He also said it was shocking that the killing of Africans, allegedly by Indian vigilantes, did not only happen in Phoenix, but also in Chatsworth (also in Durban) and Northdale, an Indian-dominated neighbourhood in Pietermaritzburg.
“We should deal with vigilante groups and we must be decisive in that. We should ensure that those who killed people are arrested. This didn’t only happen in Phoenix,” Zikalala said.