Hawks mum as fears mount of second wave of looting and destruction
Despite fears of a suspected second wave of civil unrest, the Hawks have refused to confirm or deny they are investigating reports about 26 people linked to the failed insurrection in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng three weeks ago.
This is after Daily Maverick reported that Western Cape’s GOOD party secretary-general, Brett Herron, had handed over information about three WhatsApp groups — “Shutdown eThekwini”, “INK Shutdown” and “Free Zuma Information” — which discussed the recent looting and destruction in the two provinces.
“The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation has noted the article as portrayed in the media. At this stage, we will not discuss our investigation in the media. As soon as the investigations are concluded, only then will suspects and charges be made known,” Hawks spokesperson Col Katlego Mogale said on Thursday.
The unrest and looting, which has been characterised as an insurrection, resulted in more than 300 deaths and billions of rand in damage and destruction to infrastructure, social services and business in the two provinces.
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said on Thursday the party was concerned that although the initial unrest had cooled “it does not mean the people who are planning are not continuing to plan”.
Six people — including former Ukhozi FM DJ Ngizwe Mchunu, ANC West Rand ward councillor Clarence Tabane and the Patriotic Alliance mayoral candidate for the West Rand, Bruce Nimmerhoudt — have been arrested and appeared in different courts for incitement of violence.
Although calm has been restored in the country, there are fears of a fresh wave of looting and destruction.
TimesLIVE has seen a document which is making the rounds on social media and detailing a plan for a second wave of unrest.
According to the document, the plan is to attack state resources like police and municipal vehicles, to close freeways and to again burn trucks. There are also calls for the police, army and private security personnel to be stripped of their weapons.
A security source, who is working closely on the investigation on the ground and who asked not to be named, said: “They are waiting to see what will happen with the Jacob Zuma case in the Constitutional Court and then they will execute their plan.”
In his statement to the Hawks, which TimesLIVE has seen, Herron said he had information of a plot “relating to the acts of terrorism, insurrection, looting and violence that followed the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma”.
The Sunday Times previously reported on the “Shutdown eThekwini” WhatsApp group in which ANC branch members from Durban allegedly discussed how to block highways and attack shopping malls to force the state to bow to their demands and release the former head of state.
Herron said: “The ‘eThekwini Shutdown’ WhatsApp group was set up with the primary objective of promoting and coordinating actions in eThekweni. It was opened on the morning of July 8. Instigators and potential instigators were then encouraged to join the group through its link.
“The ‘INK Shutdown’ group was established on July 9 at around 11.31am. INK refers to the Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu regions [in northern Durban]. This group’s objective was promoting, coordinating and sharing information of actions in INK.”
He said the “Free Zuma Information” group, which was created on July 8, was initially called “Free Zuma Coordinators”.
“This group’s objective was promoting and sharing information on actions around the country. Notable members in this group include Carl Niehaus and Andile Lungisa,” claimed Herron.
“It is clear these WhatsApp groups contain clear evidence of incitement, planning and involvement of many individuals in the insurrection, looting and acts of terrorism witnessed in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.”
This week Niehaus, a senior member of the Free Jacob Zuma campaign and of the so-called Radical Economic Transformation (RET) forces, said the grouping would be “embarking on several key programmes of action” following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s failure to act on the demands to release Zuma.
Peaceful “action” is planned for August 10, the same day that Zuma is expected to appear at the Pietermaritzburg high court, where he will argue for the charges against him to be dropped in his arms deal corruption trial.
Niehaus, who has denied being one of the instigators of the recent unrest, said: “We will now be embarking on several key programmes of action which will be peaceful and within the confines of the law.
“In addition to this growing campaign to release [former] president Zuma, we announce the #FreeJacobZuma campaign will take the following — serious but well-considered — step in response to the entirely inadequate, and in fact criminal, manner in which President Ramaphosa, the responsible members of his national executive [cabinet], and the government in general, responded to the events of violence and looting of the past weeks.”
Duarte on Thursday maintained the unrest and violent events “were planned, instigated, and well-coordinated”.
“The ANC will act decisively against any of its members who have or continue to participate in these activities,” she said.
“All the SMSes we have received over weeks and months have been made available to law enforcement agencies. All we have right now are numbers and not names, including utterances made by ANC members, that we are aware of. We are in the process of developing charges,” said Duarte.
She would not be drawn on naming the people who are being investigated.
“People have rights and have a right to know what is in the charge sheet in terms of the ANC’s internal processes. They also have two weeks from the date they receive the charge sheet to respond,” she said.
Duarte said the ANC wanted the process to be fair and without undue influence of media scrutiny.
“Not all instigators are members of the ANC. We have ascertained that. We received a copy of a press release by the #FreeJacobZuma campaignthat there is a view it was not planned. We disagree with this aspect because it was planned.
“You cannot have a WhatsApp group discussing 12 areas that must be attacked and then those very same geographic districts are indeed attacked,” she said.
She said the ANC would closely monitor the #FreeJacobZuma campaign.