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Human Rights Commission probe into July unrest that shocked SA set to resume

Members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on patrol in Alexandra during the unrest. Picture: GCIS

Members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on patrol in Alexandra during the unrest. Picture: GCIS

Published Feb 21, 2022

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Pretoria - The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is to recommence its national investigative hearing today into the July unrest that rocked parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

The two-week probe is in its second leg of the hearings, and will focus on events as they unfolded in Gauteng during the unrest in July last year, and will also feature the continuation of evidence from the KZN sitting that took place last year.

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The panel is due to hear testimony from survivors, community members, industry players in commerce, the private security scetor, and state officials.

The country erupted into chaos in July after the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma, following his refusal to appear before Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry.

There was widespread looting of shops in parts of KZN and Gauteng, that resulted in more than 300 people dying.

SAHRC spokesperson Gushwell Brooks said the July unrest was of national concern.

“The subject matter of this hearing is a matter of national concern” and has implications on various rights such as the right to security, the right to be free from all forms of violence, the right to not to have one’s possessions seized, and the right to life, he said.

“Our Constitution is founded on the principle of accountability. The SAHRC’s mandate is, among others, to monitor and assess the observance of human rights in the Republic.

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“Ultimately, it falls on the commission in terms of the Constitution to investigate and report on issues where human rights have been violated, and to take steps to secure appropriate redress.”

He added that all parties and stakeholders would be afforded every opportunity to be heard in a fair and unbiased fashion.

“Similar to the first phase of the hearing, this second phase will be live streamed and would be accessible on the commission’s website, social media pages and YouTube channel,” Brooks said.

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A report by an expert panel, published by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this month, stated the instigators of the unrest in the two provinces had outwitted the country’s intelligence services, which could not cope and deal with the violent protests.

The probe by Professor Sandy Africa, Silumko Sokupa and advocate Monjanku Gumbi gave a detailed account of how the aftermath of the ANC’s national conference in 2017, which saw the election of Ramaphosa as the party’s president, led to factional battles in state institutions, including state intelligence, which was graphically divided between supporters of Zuma and the incumbent Ramaphosa.

The expert panel report found that the State Security Agency had warned the government about the impending violence following the conviction of Zuma in the Constitutional Court on June 29 for contempt of the Zondo Commission.

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