July unrest 'planned at high political level', says Abahlali baseMjondolo
Text messages advising “comrades” not to wear ANC regalia so they would not be identified circulated during the July riots and looting in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, Abahlali baseMjondolo's S’bu Zikode said on Monday.
Representing SA's biggest shack dwellers' movement at the SA Human Rights Commission hearing into the unrest, Zikode testified that his organisation had seen text messages from “local and even regional leaders” of the ANC.
Thus Abahlali baseMjondolo believed the riots were planned at a “high political level”.
While the arrest and imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma and the “already fertile” conditions of poverty and anger played a role, the unrest was also related to factions within the ANC.
“We were aware that, of course, many South Africans concur that there were threats already there should the former president be arrested. But [it] also made us really think that this was planned at a high political level and didn’t take us by surprise.
“It took place step by step, from the expulsion of the mayor of eThekwini. It is our understanding she had very close ties to [Zuma]. That’s when things began to go wrong with the forces of one faction. Those aligned to [Zuma], one way or the other, had to stand in solidarity with the former president.
“If they were successful in defending the former president and [keeping him out of jail], the first thing they should do is to make sure his key people, like the former mayor, does not lose power within the ruling power and the city.
“That that faction failed and the mayor found herself expelled from the position meant [Zuma] would be vulnerable. It means his allies are no longer strong.
“So we have been reading things through that political perspective of what is happening within the ruling party. We could also read from the text messages that we had. People were saying, 'Comrade, let us not use the regalia of the ANC because we will be easily identified.'”
There was a leadership vacuum. No-one wanted to take responsibly.S’bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo
Zikode said he would provide WhatsApp messages showing a group of people co-ordinating the unrest.
“It is very clear on these messages what the issues are and what the aim is. It's clear that the target is active key economic areas.”
The messages stated that sabotaging the economy would force “this man” to rethink Zuma's arrest.
Zikode said he had tried to call premier Sihle Zikalala to inform him that he was aware of serious threats against deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo. However, according to Zikode, the premier did not respond.
“The premier would not answer my call or my WhatsApp message. The threat against the deputy chief justice was serious. His address was being circulated. I felt that my conscience would not be clean to keep quiet, knowing so much damage had been done, and now there was a specific target in the home of the deputy chief justice. I took privilege to call the premier. To my surprise, the premier wouldn’t answer.”
Zikode said he would not go to the police as “they had taken a clear stance that they were colluding with what was happening.
“There was a leadership vacuum. No-one wanted to take responsibly.”