‘There was nothing’: No intelligence alert on July riots, says KZN premier Sihle Zikalala

Unrest and looting one of the ‘most embarrassing moments’ in the history of SA

26 November 2021 - 12:07
Premier Sihle Zikalala said the KwaZulu-Natal government relied on social and mainstream media for updates about the unrest and looting in July. File photo.
Premier Sihle Zikalala said the KwaZulu-Natal government relied on social and mainstream media for updates about the unrest and looting in July. File photo.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala has told the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearings into the July riots and looting that the provincial government was not forewarned by intelligence structures about the impending unrest.

“There was no information received from any intelligence structure indicating the need to prepare for the unrest. No briefing was done to warn the province about the impending looting. There was nothing provided to us. We, too, relied on social and mainstream media for updates. There was nothing from intelligence,” said Zikalala.

When threats of unrest were doing the rounds, Zikalala said government had held a conference on matters related to Covid-19.

“We discussed how we would deal with the situation at Nkandla.

“We were not forewarned of any threat except what we saw on social media. We engaged the chairperson of the security cluster and the minister of police. We responded through the media by discouraging people from holding public gatherings,” Zikalala said.

The premier, in his capacity as head of the ANC in the province, met former president Jacob Zuma about possible threats of unrest before Zuma was sent to prison.

“We engaged him on this issue and said as leaders we must ensure there is no bloodbath.”

Zikalala said he believed the police and other agencies within the security cluster should have done something to avoid the unrest. He described it as one of the most of embarrassing moments in the history of the country.

Asked to describe the relationship between the police and communities in KwaZulu-Natal, Zikalala said it was not what it should be.

“It should be improved. Structures are in place, but the relationship is yet to translate to meaningful progress. The province needs to improve.”

The relationship, he said,  was hindered by a lack of resources.

Zikalala conceded the province had a history of violence. 

“The economic imbalance that affects the province creates fertile ground for violence and we need to deal with that.”

He said the provincial government had done “a lot” to dismantle economic imbalances in KwaZulu-Natal.

“With limited powers, we’ve done a lot. The legislation does not allow us to do much. We can’t sufficiently unlock the market as there are policies that are centralised nationally.”

He said the provincial government would erect a monument of peace in Phoenix, with the names of all those who died in the unrest. The government would also establish a peace garden in the area.

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