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Zuma must condemn violence and show leadership

Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance
15 August 2012

The following statement was distributed at a press conference hosted in Parliament today by DA Leader Helen Zille and Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille. Additional material distributed at the press conference can be downloaded here.

Mayor Patricia de Lille and I have today written to President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as President of the ANC, requesting that he make a public pronouncement condemning the ANC Youth League’s violent attempts to make the City of Cape Town ungovernable, and that he begin to show leadership in defending the rights of peaceful, law-abiding citizens.

Our letter to the President today follows the direct threats by the ANCYL in the Western Cape to “make this city and the province ungovernable” and the subsequent sustained and co-ordinated campaign by the ANCYL over the last two weeks to incite violent protests in Cape Town. These protests have already resulted in four deaths (of Golden Arrow bus driver Sandile Hoko, a resident of one of the homes the bus hit, a truck driver, and a toddler), numerous serious injuries, the destruction of public property worth R6 million, and the violent disruption of an official community report back meeting.

This is not the first time we have written to President Zuma about the seditious threats of prominent members of the ANCYL in the Western Cape. In fact, we have been warning the President for over two years that the ANCYL in the Western Cape has spun dangerously out of control, and that he should act to defend the constitutional order and uphold the outcome of a democratic election in the Western Cape.
I first wrote to him in May 2010, when the head of the ANCYL in the Western Cape, Mr Loyiso Nkohla, said that the ANCYL would “destroy everything and make the city ungovernable”. Mr Nkohla went further, actively inciting all youth in Cape Town to vandalise and destroy public property.

The President did not respond.  At the time I also learned that Mr Nkohla is employed in a party position in Parliament.

I then wrote to President Zuma again in August 2010, warning him that the ANCYL, in particular Mr Andile Lili and Mr Nkohla, had threatened once again to make the city ungovernable after the World Cup. I predicted at the time that such statements would only escalate in future.

Once again, the President did not respond.

Earlier this year, I also wrote to Minister of State Security, Siyabonga Cwele, to ask his department to investigate attempts to undermine, through many means including violence, the democratically elected government in the Western Cape through Operation Reclaim. The State Security Agency declined to investigate, suggesting it was “outside of their mandate” to investigate criminal elements who were actively planning to incite violence aimed at overthrowing an elected government.
Now, exactly two years later, the President’s failure to rein in the out-of-control ANCYL and his failure to provide a semblance of leadership on this matter has had tragic consequences.

The ANCYL has all but admitted it is responsible for the current violence.

  • "Let them go to the police ... we are giving Zille's office seven days to respond and if there's failure to do so within seven days, we will make the city ungovernable." – Mfuzo Zenzile
  • "If the attitude is positive then we will report that to the people but if it is not, we will shut this city down." – Loyiso Nkohla
  • "We know how to fight back; if and when the time comes for us to fight with the police we will do so." – Loyiso Nkohla
  • The day before the fatal attack on the bus, the ANCYL was quoted as saying that it would prevent "any and all Golden Arrow buses and taxis from operating". 
  • It has also said that it would “bring the city to a standstill”, and that the protests would go ahead “with or without permission” from the City of Cape Town.
  • A recent service delivery report back meeting that the Mayor held in Khayelitsha was violently broken up by a group of youths, some of whom were clearly wearing ANCYL berets.
  • CCTV footage of riots along the N2 shows how ‘protests’ are centrally co-ordinated and controlled, with people co-ordinating protestors with loud hailers.

The definition of sedition, as given on the SAPS website, is clear and it is instructive in this case:

Sedition consists of unlawfully and intentionally -

taking part in a concourse of people violently or by threats of violence challenging, defying or resisting the authority of the State; or
causing such a concourse.

We have given all the evidence, video tapes and written threats to the Police and it is now up to them to investigate, identify the individuals responsible, lay the appropriate charges, and ensure cases succeed in court.  It is not up to the provincial government to do this.

During a Cabinet briefing today it became clear that there are elements within the ANC Youth League actively involved behind the violent events of the past week and the State Security Agency and the South African Police Services were tasked with investigating this matter further.  The matter is being taken seriously.

Two recent studies into protest action across South Africa have revealed that the ANC and its affiliates are the single biggest player behind most protests across the country. Municipal IQ has found that most protests are politically motivated, and mainly between factions in the ANC. 

The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation at Wits University has found one “common thread in service delivery protests, the role played by ANC figures in all protests.” (City Press, 12 August)

In the face of what the ANCYL has itself said and done over the last few weeks, its subsequent denial of any involvement rings completely hollow.

Our letter to the President today has urged him to make a strong public statement condemning the actions of his party’s Youth League, and to make it absolutely clear that illegal actions have no place in the politics of a constitutional democracy.
Our letter also points out that the conduct of the ANCYL, and the President’s failure to condemn it, is one of the reasons that the ANC is losing popularity in the Western Cape. The ANC is increasingly perceived to be “anti-Western Cape” and the huge majority of peaceful, law abiding citizens react very negatively to the kind of intimidation and violence that the ANCYL is currently inciting.

And while the ANCYL, like any other organisation, has a constitutional right to protest; all spheres of government are obliged to protect law abiding citizens against illegal protests that are orchestrated to damage public and private property.

The President must now act to defend the constitutional order, which includes the right of every citizen to vote for a government of their choice. He must condemn the violence publicly and in the strongest possible terms, rein in the ANCYL, and get the ANC in the Western Cape under control.