Sunday Times

July ’21 riots report tells us nothing we did not know


IIn the context of failure by the police, intelligen­ce services and other organs of state to get to the root causes of the July 2021 riots that claimed the lives of 354 people and cost the economy about R50bn, perhaps it is understand­able that many looked to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for meaningful answers. The commission showed enthusiasm to get to the bottom of the largest social uph eaval in post-apartheid South Africa. But its largely disappoint­ing 252-page report, after months of keeping the public in suspense, shows enthusiasm alone is never enough. It confirms that the violence that took place soon after former president Jacob Zuma was jailed for contempt of court, was a result of active agitation by unknown instigator­s .

The report describes those who “orchestrat­ed ” the anarchy, which was confined largely to KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, as having been “well - resourced ”, dismissing the claim that the main cause of the riots was poverty. It calls the “blocking of the N3 and the N2”, the attack on the government communicat­ion facilities at Durban harbour, as well as “calculated destructio­n of factories and warehouses” signs that the havoc was well organised and co-ordinated. But most disappoint­ing about the report is that, like similar investigat­ions by the police and intelligen­ce communitie­s, it fails to expose the individual­s behind the violence.

Without the names of the original instigator­s, no-one can be held accou ntable and South Africans will continue to live in fear that the anarchy could be repeated . Also perplexing is that, even though it seemed obvious to everyone that the spark for the violence was Zuma supporters’ unhappines­s with his incarcerat­ion, it says “th e common purpose or intention behind the unrest remains unclear”. But instead of expending too much energy arguing with the report, we should be demanding that those we pay to protect our society from harm actually do their job. The kingpins should still be found, arrested and prosecuted.

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