South Africa officials arrest 12 for ‘organising’ wave of violence
South African authorities said yesterday that they had arrested a man suspected of orchestrating nearly a week of looting and arson attacks, provoking turmoil that has split the ruling party between supporters of President Cyril Ramaphosa and his predecessor Jacob Zuma.
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, the acting minister for the office of Ramaphosa, said police had arrested one of 12 individuals suspected of organising the violence that has left more than 100 people dead. She did not name the individual.
It came after media reported that the suspects included suspended senior members of the ANC — the party that has been in power since the end of apartheid — and former intelligence officials.
Ntshavheni said the death toll had climbed to 117 people and an additional 10,000 troops were being deployed to the affected regions in an attempt to bring the unrest under control.
Both Guateng and KwaZulu Natal, the key provinces affected, were largely calm yesterday, although looting was reported around Durban.
The turmoil has exposed divisions within the ANC and led to calls for Ramaphosa to take decisive action against Zuma and his allies, even if that risks splitting the party.
The violence in KwaZulu Natal, Zuma’s home province and most important base of support, began shortly after he was jailed for contempt of court.
ANC members loyal to Ramaphosa have accused the former President’s allies of seeking to use the violence to spring him from jail.
One senior ANC member from KwaZulu Natal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Zuma, who was forced to resign amid corruption allegations in 2018, should have been expelled from the party “long ago”.
“Why was Zuma allowed to continue? Why didn’t the ANC expel him? The truth is they were scared of Jacob Zuma,” he said.
Zizi Kodwa, a Deputy Security Minister, said former members of the uMkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC during the apartheid struggle, may have orchestrated the initial attacks on trucks on the N3 — the main transport artery linking Durban with Johannesburg — in an attempt to sever links between the country’s economic hub and its most important port.
“The issue is no longer about former President Jacob Zuma. It is bigger than that. It is about destabilisation, it is about economic sabotage,” he told reporters in Soweto.
He provided no evidence for the claim. But Ronnie Kasrils, a former Security Minister, said the claims of security service involvement were not implausible.
“From the time I was minister there were signs of politicalisation in the intelligence services which rendered them ineffective. They were hollowed out, and nothing was done about this,” he said. “This carried on to an abnormal extent in the disastrous Zuma years.”