Ramaphosa should learn from July 2021 unrest ahead of elections

Published Jan 30, 2024


President Cyril Ramaphosa has been forewarned that the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) report into the July 2021 unrest, should be a major red flag for him to bulk up the country’s defence and stop micromanaging State Security matters.

During the release of the report on Monday, January 29, SAHRC Commissioner Philile Ntuli said the destruction witnessed during the July 2021 unrest were symptomatic of unresolved systemic conditions, such as post-Covid-19 economic recovery, high unemployment, lawlessness, discrimination, socio-economic divides, and issues within the security sector.

The commission had concluded that organised groups and individuals opportunistically exploited these conditions to attempt to usurp the rule of law, she said.

Seasoned forensic investigator, Calvin Rafadi, in complementing the work of the commission said part of the problems arose after Ramaphosa decided immediately after his inauguration, to take state security into his capable hands, reporting directly to the Presidency at the Union Buildings.

Rafadi said despite taking this initiative, the president had in reality only micro-managed a few members, leaving many capable members of State Security vulnerable and very disgruntled.

“I was not surprised that the July unrest matter was going unresolved because it is those vulnerable and disgruntled members who were capable of seeing and countering espionage and providing counter-intelligence.

“They are the only unit that could have overseen the well planned orchestrated unrest and detected the main instigators, not just the hungry South Africans who were simply finishing up the looting that already started.”

The forensic expert said this was because in many instances the real criminals would break open the doors, take what they came for and leave the rest so that the community would enter and contaminate the scene -- similar to how those involved in cash-in-transit heists operated.

“We know the main guys will bomb the ATM or cash-in-transit, pick up the chunk of the money and then the rest is left for people to contaminate the scene.”

Rafadi said the weaknesses in State Security could also be evidenced not just through the July 2021 unrest, but also through incidents such as the break-in at the Office of the Chief Justice, something he believed was a serious security breach.

The Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand, was broken into on March 18, 2017, with criminals stealing at least 15 computers in the office where the Human Resources and Facilities Units were located.

Another incident Rafadi highlighted was that of February 2020, when the office of the State Security Agency in Pretoria, had also been broken into with criminals getting away with an undisclosed amount of money in local and foreign currency as well as important documents.

“These are things that cannot go undetected because it was the role of state security to monitor and avert such brazen attacks on extremely crucial institutions.

“To this day these break-ins are unresolved, and our mutual agreements with foreign intelligence are also not benefiting us and in fact put our country in a state of panic alluding to a terrorist attack in Sandton.

“The truth of the matter is that Ramaphosa must revisit state security issues and stop micromanaging, otherwise he will continually fail with intelligence issues.

“Furthermore, with more comments about vote rigging in the upcoming elections I would stress that it is absolutely crucial that the military and state security are brought back up to par,” Rafadi added.

Dianne Kohler-Barnard, a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence, expressed similar sentiments about the report, rightly criticising the state’s response to the unrest, highlighting poor communication, co-ordination, planning, and high-level management within the security cluster.

“The lack of consequence management, with no substantial arrests or accountability for the systemic failures, remains a significant concern.

“The report underscores the failure to address the root causes and prosecute individuals within the security and law enforcement sectors implicated in criminal activities during the unrest.

“The DA agrees with the report’s emphasis on the urgent need for the security sector, including the State Security Agency, SANDF, and relevant stakeholders, to develop a national security strategy.”

Kohler-Barnard, however, said their biggest concern was that the report had indicated that there was no evidence linking the timing of the events to Zuma’s incarceration.

The assertion was, according to Kohler-Barnard, rather worrisome as this contradicted the experiences of those who witnessed the events first-hand.

The Star