Remember the eight days of looting and violence last July that started in eThekwini and cost the government R50 billion? A report into the riots, compiled by an expert panel established by the Presidency, was quietly released on Monday. The 154-page report found that at least 354 people died and paints a damning picture of the country’s security apparatus, which failed to do its job.
During the riots, the report reads, citizens felt a “deep bewilderment” as they were left at the mercy of criminal opportunists, while state security like the army and police were either delayed or overwhelmed, sometimes for days. Community members stepped into the gap, guarding against looters and protecting each other. We’re still in awe of you, Soweto leader Nhlanhla Lux. 🙌🏽
The report expresses concern that the same opportunists will be emboldened next time: “The question, many argue, is not if and whether more unrest and violence will occur, but when it will occur.”
Former president Jacob Zuma’s arrest famously triggered the riots. The panel says it heard several times that “ factional battles in the ANC have become a serious source of instability in the country. This is a matter of great concern.”
But, it points out, structural issues like poverty – exacerbated by Covid-19 – were the root causes of the unrest. Ramaphosa has promised to follow the report’s recommendations, making special mention of it at Thursday’s Sona, saying government would fill “critical vacancies” in the State Security Agency and Crime Intelligence, plus announce leadership changes in a number of security agencies.
We suggest he starts with rethinking the useless National Security Council that he set up in 2020. It’s made up of relevant ministers – or, it turns out, pretty irrelevant ones, since they didn’t even bother to meet the panel when it was compiling its report. The South African Human Rights Commission is also holding hearings into the riots.
So much happens in our country that this may seem long gone. But it was a serious blot on South Africa’s record so we’ll keep you updated on how it’s being addressed. 🤞🏽
This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 11 February 2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.