A senior cabinet minister has laid the blame on some ANC members who support Jacob Zuma for the attempted “insurrection” that led to the loss of more than 300 lives in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Speaking to the Sunday Times a few hours before he was moved from the ministry of public service & administration to water & sanitation in Thursday’s reshuffle, Senzo Mchunu said the unrest tarnished the ANC and its government with the stigma of violence that needed to be removed.
Mchunu said even though no ANC branch had held a specific meeting where a decision was made to embark on the violence, some of the plotters were ANC members.
“It’s mainly ANC people linked with the ‘Release Zuma’ campaign who were co-ordinators. They sat in different parts of the country to identify places to loot and provide transport. Then you had the movers who drove cars to go to the identified places, which gave you a sense that these were well-off people. These are the people who burnt property after the looting.”
So far no senior ANC leader has been arrested in connection with last month’s events. But Mchunu said the looting spree would not have happened without a number of people working to co-ordinate and execute the plan.
Mchunu said he belonged to a group that supported Zuma after the latter’s return from exile, but not once did they resort to looting, even during Zuma’s court appearances.
He said the behaviour of Zuma’s supporters had changed over the years, which led to the violent looting in July.
“From the time when he came from exile, we gave him our support in KwaZulu-Natal … We supported him during his trials in 2005 and 2009 until he was acquitted. During all this period not a single slice of bread was looted. Not a single windowpane was broken. [There was] no destruction, let alone burning. But we successfully supported him until he was acquitted.
“The question facing us today as members of the ANC, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, is what has changed now in terms of supporting Zuma … what is new?
“It’s insurrection. If it’s not insurrection that what is it? The co-ordination we picked up on social media wasn’t talking about hunger. These things were not done to address poverty and hunger. They were done in support of Zuma. If poverty and hunger were behind the looting it was not going to require movers, it would have happened long ago.”
He said it is possible that the destruction of property and infrastructure could recur.
Mchunu, who is from northern KwaZuluNatal, said President Cyril Ramaphosa was correct in pointing out that there were people who had tried to mobilise along ethnic lines when the Zuma protests started. He said the presence of Zulu regiments commander Mgijili Nhleko and Maskandi music ambassador Ngizwe Mchunu shows “there was an attempt to do that”.
Mchunu was also critical of statements made by ANC leaders in his home province calling for Zuma’s release while the looting and destruction of property was unfolding. He said such statements were interpreted by the looters as an endorsement of the chaos.
“Leaders made statements about pardoning — which needs to come from the president. When the statement is made publicly by a person other than the president, the person who is looting will think there is nothing wrong with what they are doing.
“Those statements may have been unintended in terms of implications in the long run … [but they] made the situation more fertile [for continued destruction].”
The unrest started as a #FreeZuma protest with the blocking of highways. But it soon escalated to the looting and torching of shops and warehouses. During the events, KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala called for Zuma’s release “within the law”.
Mchunu had a fallout with Zuma before being removed as premier of KwaZulu-Natal in 2016. He contested for the position of ANC secretary-general in 2017 under the Ramaphosa slate, but lost to Ace Magashule.
– Sunday times