Despite promises of swift action, only 7 people held for instigating July riots

The violence which flared up in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng was described as a failed 'insurrection attempt' by government, which claimed that the anarchy was orchestrated to cause instability in the country.

Protesters gesture towards police officers (not seen) as they burn tyres in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, on 11 July 2021. Picture: Luca Sola/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Despite assurances of speedy arrests and the prosecution of instigators behind the devastating public violence that broke out in the country three months ago, the Hawks said that only seven people had been handcuffed.

The violence which flared up in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng was described as a failed “insurrection attempt” by government, which claimed that the anarchy was orchestrated to cause instability in the country.

In the days following the July violence, government acknowledged that it was caught off guard, with no clear understanding of the events that claimed over 300 lives. The acting Minister in the Presidency at the time, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, revealed that authorities were pursuing 12 masterminds behind the lawlessness.

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“Questions around the 12 alleged instigators, we want to report that one is already in custody, and the South African Police Service tracking team has increased the surveillance of the remaining 11,” she said at the time.

Deputy Minister for State Security Zizi Kodwa said that the masterminds were “people with experience of running operations” as the police swooped in on former SA ambassador to Japan, Thulani Dlomo, who handed himself over to authorities, with no clarity on whether he was facing any charges.

The Hawks’ Katlego Mogale explained the charges faced by the arrested seven individuals, with some having appeared in court already.

“Four of those people who were found to be instigating using their social media pages - Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. And there were elements of crime, meaning that they instigated and riled up the behavior of people,” she said.

Over 160 malls and shopping centres, 11 warehouses and eight factories were damaged during the looting and destruction of property after former President Jacob Zuma was arrested for being in contempt of court.

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