Despite the coincidental timing of the July 2021 unrest and former president Jacob Zuma’s incarceration, there is no evidence proving a direct link between the two events.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) made this information public on Monday during the release of the July unrest report.
The commission noted that the unrest, which escalated into widespread violence, looting, and destruction, resulting in an estimated financial damage of R50-billion and claiming over 300 lives, could not be linked to Zuma’s arrest despite protests over his imprisonment.
“The timing of the events of the July unrest coincided with the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma,” reads the report.
“This caused an intertwining that blurred the lines between where one ended and when the other started. This intersection of events has led many to conclude that the two are related.”
Destabilising the economy
According to the commission, the motive behind the unrest was likely aimed at destabilising the economy.
Its findings show that the unrest was orchestrated by well-resourced primary parties mobilising secondary parties to target malls and other locations.
“The blocking of the N3 and the N2 [highways], the calculated destruction of factories and warehouses, the organised disconnection of security and fire alarm systems, the attack on government communication facilities at the Durban Port, and the bombing and removal of ATMs — together, they cannot be viewed as mutually distinct.
“These events point to a significant investment in the execution of the July unrest.”
Intelligence coordination failure
The commission criticised the SA Police Service for shortcomings in intelligence coordination and communication, noting a failure to detect the planning and execution of the unrest.
This is despite arrests that were made with varying legal outcomes.
Ngizwe Mchunu, Mdumiseni Zuma, and Bonginkosi Khanyile, among others, faced arrest on charges of instigating the unrest.
Mchunu was later acquitted, Mdumiseni received a 12-year sentence, and Khanyile’s case is continuing.