DA questions the HRC Report on the July Unrest

Issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP – DA member of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence
30 Jan 2024 in News

Please find attached a soundbite by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP.

The DA acknowledges the South African Human Rights Commission’s report on the riots primarily in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng that occurred two and a half years ago.

This catastrophic event resulted in the burning of 40 000 businesses and 50 000 informal traders’ outlets, leaving 150 000 people unemployed and causing an estimated financial damage of R50 billion. The report, released after an extensive period, meticulously outlines the chaos and underlying causes that led to this devastating incident.

While the report acknowledges President Zuma’s imprisonment and the subsequent riots between July 8 and 19, 2021, as acts of protest, violence, and looting that spread across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the DA finds the conclusion drawn by the SAHRC to be perplexing. Specifically, the assertion that there is no evidence linking the timing of the events to Zuma’s incarceration appears unfounded and contradicts the experiences of those who witnessed the events firsthand.

As someone who participated in manning barricades for 24 hours a day during the riots to protect homes due to the absence of the SAPS and who surveyed the aftermath of looted and burned malls adorned with Free Zuma slogans, the DA disagrees with the notion that there is no connection between Zuma’s imprisonment and the riots.

The orchestrated dismantling of ATMs, the knowledge of ATM codes, and the calm looting captured on film all indicate a level of planning and execution that cannot be dismissed as mere coincidence.

The report rightly criticises the state’s response to the unrest, highlighting poor communication, coordination, 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, South African National Defence Force, and relevant stakeholders, to develop a national security strategy.

That this has to be called for, considering the billions in taxpayers’ money sunk annually into this sector, is extraordinary.

The private security industry’s role during the crisis is acknowledged, but concerns about unlicensed personnel and the crumbling state of PSIRA raise important questions about the effectiveness of the security cluster.

The reports call for the Department of Justice and the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions to engage directly with affected communities and provide transparent accounts of prosecutions and inquests is noted.

However, the lack of clarity on the Zuma factor and the apparent avoidance of addressing the connections between Zuma’s situation, pro-Zuma campaigns, and the riots is a notable omission.

In conclusion, the report, spanning 231 pages over 2 ½ years, states an inability to draw clear conclusions. The DA questions the efficacy of such commissions if they are unable or unwilling to reach obvious conclusions. The response from the SSA, PSIRA, and SAPS (CI) is awaited within 60 days.

This protracted process prompts a reconsideration of whether such investigations are better entrusted to investigators capable of reaching definitive conclusions.

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