Lamola concerned as July unrest mastermind yet to be brought to book

Minister Ronald Lamola was testifying before the South African Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into the unrest.

FILE: Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - Justice Minister Ronald Lamola on Thursday said he was concerned that there had been no arrests to date of the alleged masterminds behind the orchestrated violence that tore through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July last year.

More than 300 people died and around R50 billion was wiped from the economy as a result of the mayhem, which was triggered by the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court.

Lamola was testifying before the South African Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into the unrest.

He was asked directly whether he was worried that no ringleaders had been brought to book seven months after the looting and violence erupted.

“Yes, it does concern me. It can only end there. As you’re aware, I cannot instruct the NPA and the police who they must arrest. But I do believe that hopefully, with the information at their disposal, at some stage they will be able to arrest the masterminds behind this unrest.”

It was also put to Lamola that the expert panel’s report on the violence found that African National Congress in-fighting was a contributing factor. Lamola made it clear that arrests and prosecutions should take place based on the evidence, without fear or favour.

“It is helpful that the nation finds finality, but it also serves as a deterrent, and sends a message that no-one is above the law and that there are no holy cows and that whoever is involved in these kind of activities the full might of the law is going to fall on such a person.”

WE HAD TO PLAN FOR MASS ARRESTS

Lamola has described how plans had to be made to deal with mass arrests due to the mayhem unleashed by the July riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

He said his department’s job was to ensure that court processes continued smoothly and to ensure that inmates in correctional services facilities were not put at risk of contracting COVID-19 from an influx of detainees.

"This was a real, big stress to the management on COVID-19 and this collaboration by all role players was important, and I think it helped us to manage it."

Lamola’s also told the hearing that it was necessary to allay concerns about Zuma’s incarceration in Estcourt.

"Correctional Services did its best to continue with updating the nation about his state of health, about his matter of incarceration but also to call for calm that he is in space that he is incarcerated in dignity so that the nation at large is aware that he was kept in our facilities in a dignified manner".