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Fears July unrest and looting in KZN, Gauteng was fomented from within ranks of ANC

Metro police taking away fridge which was stolen during the looting and violence in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Metro police taking away fridge which was stolen during the looting and violence in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Dec 3, 2021

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Durban - The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has told the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) probe into the July 2021 unrest of its concern that an assault against the state had emerged within the ranks of the ruling ANC, or people associated with the party.

This was part of the dissection of the ISS’s submission to the SAHRC’s National Investigative Hearing into the July unrest, made by David Bruce, an independent researcher in the fields of policing and public security. Bruce works for the ISS on a consultancy basis.

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Bruce said that national Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole’s characterising of the unrest was in general terms correct, because of the scale of the events that took place.

However, he said that to the best of their knowledge the correct characterisation of the unrest, which engulfed KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, was that it had emerged within the ranks of the governing ANC.

“It just seems inherently problematic for our country if these type of threats to the security of the state emerge from within the governing party. Along with that goes a particular conundrum for security services or governance of the security services, because one of the aspects of the governance of the security services that is desirable in a country is that their politicisation be minimised.

“But it the situation in July seems to have been that if it was to have been pre-empted, it would have required that the intelligence agencies focus their scrutiny on elements within, or linked to, the governing party,” Bruce said.

He said that this had inevitably taken the country’s intelligence services into a situation where they were facing questions on whether they were being politically manipulated, and whether there was a kind of political preference or favouritism that was being applied by them.

“Ultimately what this points to is a need for us to engage with our governing party about the problematic consequences of its internal dynamics and politics for the country as a whole, but also for the security services.

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“We would hope that this would be an issue that would be foregrounded by this inquiry in the findings that it makes,” Bruce said.

Earlier on Thursday the inquiry heard evidence from the UPL Cornubia Fire Civil Society Action Group’s Professor Rajan Naidoo, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Occupational and Environmental Health Department.

Naidoo told the inquiry that the fire and chemical spillage at the United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) warehouse in Cornubia, north of Durban, was an environmental disaster that directly affected the environment around the warehouse, as well as human health.

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The warehouse was torched during the July unrest, leading to a canopy of black smoke engulfing areas around the warehouse, including the Blackburn Village informal settlement.

“The impact on the environment also has consequences on people who may live off that environment, for example fisher folk who do subsistence fishing in the water around the area.

“Those things had to stop, so it affects livelihoods. There’s also issues in terms of human health. There will be effects on health in the short term, medium term and long term, and it was why we were arguing very strongly that health services be provided for this community,” Naidoo said.

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