Lies, concessions and luxury hotels: what the SAHRC hearings into the July unrest really revealed

  • During SAHRC hearings into the July unrest, bosses of the country’s security cluster shared little material information.
  • In his testimony six months after the unrest, Hawks boss Godfrey Lebeya said none of the the architects had been stopped.
  • A year later, none of the people who carefully coordinated one of the darkest moments of South Africa’s young democracy have been condemned.

Shortly after the dust settled following the July 2021 unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated that the instigators were within reach of the authorities. But a year later, no significant arrests have been made.

Speaking to the media at his first stop after the unrest, the Bridge City Mall in KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal on July 16, 2021, Ramaphosa said “instigators” were involved. He insisted law enforcement would “go after them”.

“Our intelligence and our police now have a line of sight to what was going on in terms of instigation, coordination and planning, and we are after these people. We are going after these people. We have identified a good one. number. We will not allow anarchy and chaos to develop,” he said.

SPECIAL PROJECT | One year on: No justice after July unrest rocked SA

Six months after his loud rhetoric, senior brass in the security cluster offered little information about the architects of the well-coordinated unrest when they testified at South African Human Rights Commission hearings in the chaos.

The most recent conviction is that of KwaZulu-Natal taxi driver Lungelo Nthenga, 24, who was sentenced to five years in prison for transporting looters during the unrest.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of theft in Durban Regional Court.

The trial of alleged instigator of the July unrest Ngizwe Mchunu is due to begin in October after his brief appearance at Randburg Magistrates’ Court in Johannesburg on June 17.

The former Ukhozi FM radio personality has been charged with inciting violence during the July 2021 unrest.

The alleged instigator of the unrest Ngizwe Mchunu in court.

News24 Iavan Pijoos, News24

Not much said by Lebeya

During his testimony to the SAHRC in December last year, Hawks leader General Godfrey Lebeya gave few details of the crime unit’s cases, saying only that seven cases were before the courts, with seven people charged.

At the time, he spoke of five cases that were under investigation, while the number of suspects had “not yet been determined”.

He said 12 other cases were “still in the investigation stage” and the Hawks had yet to open any cases.

The Hawks boss said that once investigations are complete, a team led by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will decide whether to charge “one person or more than one person”.

Lebeya hadn’t given a solid timeline either. A year later, little information has been offered to the public, who are still in the dark about any progress in the investigations into the violence.

Lose an entire national police commissioner

Former National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole’s inaction during the July unrest played a significant role in his subsequent departure as the highest-ranking police officer, overseeing the service’s R100 billion budget. South African police.

During his testimony to the SAHRC, Sitole was repeatedly surprised, even failing to recall the number of people killed in Phoenix during the Troubles.

He would eventually collapse in his chair. Later, on March 31, 2022, he quit as senior cop after months of animosity between him and Police Minister Bheki Cele.

EDITORIAL | The masterminds of the July Troubles are hiding in plain sight

Sitole even conceded that he had never visited Phoenix, the scene of deadly clashes between black and Indian residents that left 37 people dead.

He also failed to account for his mismanagement of the police’s criminal intelligence unit during the Troubles.

When SAHRC Chief Evidence Officer Smanga Sethene told Sitole that he should have done more over the years, Sitole agreed. He also conceded that he did not have a national police diploma, a diploma that most of his subordinates possess.

“A person in charge of managing these billions must have the required qualifications,” Sethene said, to which Sitole replied:

The premature end to Sitole’s career continued the worrying trend of national police commissioners leaving their posts before their terms expired. This includes former police commissioners Jackie Selebi, Cele, Riah Phiyega and Khomotso Phahlane, none of whom have completed their terms.

The spat between the upper coppers

During the SAHRC hearings, one of the first observations made by KwaZulu-Natal Commissioner of Police, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, was that former Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Defense Force generals had been operating for the luxurious five-star Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga, Durban, as the city and province burned.

There was clearly no love lost between Mkhwanazi and Mapisa-Nqakula at a time when the country needed them to work together.

Mkhwanazi called Mapisa-Nqakula a liar after chief of evidence Sethene cited Mapisa-Nqakula’s statement to the commission.

In it, she claimed that the deputy provincial commissioner in charge of visible police, Major General Phumelele Makhoba, had attended meetings from July 17 because Mkhwanazi was on leave while his wife gave birth.

Mapisa-Nqakula told the commission that the provincial police commissioner’s “immaturity” and “ego” led to the military being starved of information during the July unrest.

She found Mkhwanazi difficult to work with, adding that when Makhoba took over while he was on leave, things started to flow more smoothly.

Mkhwanazi denied his claims, saying Makhoba only started acting as provincial commissioner on July 19 when he went on leave, not July 17.

Asked about Mapisa-Nqakula’s statements, he replied:

Mkhwanazi said Mapisa-Nqakula did not care about him after calling her during the unrest for allegedly lying about the number of soldiers on the ground.

“I told him, ‘You can’t go on TV and tell lies that 800 soldiers were in the field.’ She said nothing. This happened in a closed meeting on July 15, 2021. It was the first and last meeting I had with her.


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