Durban — Public findings and recommendations on the July 2021 unrest, which left more than 300 people dead and caused billions of rands in damages, will be revealed on Monday by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission).
Following the unprecedented unrest, the SAHRC held an imbizo attended by various stakeholders to ascertain the full scope of the work.
Subsequently, a national investigative hearing into the July 2021 Unrest Report was conducted, sitting in both KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng.
The CRL Rights Commission conducted investigative hearings at which various stakeholders and affected parties presented their reports and evidence in respect of the 2021 unrest in KZN.
A panel was tasked with establishing the root cause of the alleged racially motivated attacks and killings, the causes of the lapses in law enforcement and the role of private security companies during the unrest.
Government departments, state entities, business chambers and members of the affected communities gave evidence. President Cyril Ramaphosa was also called before the commission.
The two reports will be jointly released in Durban by the two chapter nine bodies on the investigative work carried out into specific issues following the unrest in KZN and Gauteng.
Mpiyakhe Mkholo, the CRL senior manager of communications and marketing, said the reports were extensive.
“Both reports talk about the findings that are in line with the mandate of each institution and it gives recommendations,” said Mkholo.
Ramaphosa in his statement before the SAHRC investigative hearing said: “For one week and one day in July 2021, we stared into the heart of darkness. We watched in horror as parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng were engulfed in violence, looting and destruction. We saw scenes of homes being ransacked and destroyed, and shops, businesses and warehouses being looted and torched, and of people being beaten and humiliated.”
He said the fundamental cause of this unrest was a deliberate decision by certain individuals to instigate, co-ordinate and incite widespread destruction of property, violence and looting.
Ramaphosa said it was acknowledged that as a government they were poorly prepared for an orchestrated campaign of public violence, destruction and sabotage of this nature.
“While there had been intelligence reports about the possibility of instability, neither the security services nor the government more broadly anticipated the nature, extent or ferocity of those events,” said Ramaphosa.
He said the “attempted insurrection” left nearly two million people jobless and cost the economy more than R50 billion.
More than 22 alleged instigators who stoked the fires of the looting and scenes of unbridled violence were arrested. It was believed the accused were participants of WhatsApp groups that were used to drive and direct looters.
Sham Maharaj, convenor of the Phoenix Ubuntu Forum, who was one of the first witnesses to testify at the hearing in Durban, said the whole issue of the “Phoenix massacre” during the unrest and looting was about the killings.
“What has been referred to as a massacre has been pre-judged, instead of waiting for the processes to happen. Following the court processes which have already happened, the Human Rights Commission should investigate what really happened because nobody got convicted.
“This whole saga brought a lot of conflict and distrust in communities, so there has to be a social cohesion programme run by communities and funded by government, especially in the Phoenix, Inanda and KwaMashu areas, and to look at the benefits to the communities. At the hearing I did say that one of the recommendations must be on how we can build a future together,” said Maharaj.