Johannesburg - The Jacob Zuma Foundation has called for the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the deaths of over 200 people in the country during days of unrest and looting of businesses.
Spokesperson of the foundation, Mzwanele Manyi, said the deaths during the unrest were a serious indictment on the government and the country. Investigating the reason for these deaths would help bring closure for the victims’ families, he said.
“Lives were lost, there must be a proper investigation into this and the ineptness of our security cluster must come into focus. Did they not anticipate this? Why did they wake up after the fact? South Africa is in a mess, the whole thing is a mess,” Manyi said.
The foundation also wanted President Cyril Ramaphosa investigated for his “inflammatory” statements of classifying the unrest as ethnic mobilisation. Ramaphosa later changed this to say the unrest was a “failed insurrection”.
The foundation had approached the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to complain.
“What should happen is that the president must apologise for comments that could have led to further incitement of violence. If you look at what’s happening in KwaZulu-Natal it could be argued that his comments were an entrenchment of tribalistic issues; they became more prominent after those comments. He is now saying that it’s an insurrection; even that is wrong, he can’t call it an insurrection,” Manyi said.
He said it was worrisome that Ramaphosa seemed to be contradicting Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula who said the unrest did not have the characteristics of an insurrection. The foundation would not retract its complaint to the SAHRC until the president apologised, he said.
“He thinks that we are stupid fools. The minister explained the elements of insurrection; Ramaphosa must back up what he is saying, that it was an insurrection. Who is the face of the insurrection and why is this person not being arrested?” he asked.
Manyi said if the government really had the appetite to arrest all those who might have said something to fuel the unrest, then the president should also be investigated.
“His comments must be investigated as to what extent his comments created unrest. There must be a clear investigation about how much damage his comments did. He must take accountability,” he said.
Manyi was also shocked by the amount of ammunition that has showed up since the unrest. The government was concerning itself with arresting people who had stolen groceries instead of arresting criminal elements involved in the unrest, he said.
He himself had become a victim of racial profiling in KwaZulu-Natal at a roadblock in an upmarket suburb.
“The calibre of weapons that I am seeing being brandished by these vigilantes … Roadblocks are scary, people have Uzi guns and AK47s.
“Why is it that we have a government that is not sensitive to the fact that people are sitting with reams and reams of bullets like we are at war? Why are they concerning themselves with those who stole food? … we have government-sanctioned vigilantism,” Manyi said.
The unrest in the country could have been avoided, he said.
The Constitutional Court justices should take time to reflect on what has happened in the country, he added.