In 1994, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, was sworn into office. He served one term. The next president, Thabo Mbeki, a highly intellectual individual spent almost two terms. Almost…because just before the end of his term there was a political jostling and the then deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC) had ousted Mbeki. Jacob Zuma, once intelligence head of the military wing of the ANC, became the president of our country. It was 2009. The presidential term is five years. He served until 2018 – and widely known as the darkest period for the country that has lost 9 years of growth. In fact, what happened economically involved an Indian family called ‘THE GUPTAS’ who are known to be hiding out in the UAE – a region that does not have an extradition treaty with South Africa.
Our Public Protector had done an investigation and publicly released a report called: State Capture. It recommended that the government set up a commission of inquiry: The Zondo Commission. The judge appointed to head up the commission is Raymond Zondo. State Capture was to uncover the systematic looting of state resources by Zuma, his political factions, the Gupta family, and their business associates. The amount of money looted out of the country is still to be quantified. As mentioned above, it was nine dark years for our economy.
Zuma had refused to attend the Zondo Commission to account for his involvement in the alleged State Capture, which he was required by law to attend. He was then asked by the highest court in the country, The Constitutional Court, to attend the commission. He refused. The court found him to be in contempt of court and sentenced him to 15-months in prison. He was given five days to hand himself in to the authorities or be arrested. On 08 July he handed himself into Estcourt police station where he was taken to prison.
South Africa has a complex cultural structure. Through my writings I have tried to give awareness around the indenture community. There are around 1.5 million South Africans of Indian and Tamil origin who mostly live in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Durban – named after Sir Benjamin D’urban who was the governor of The Cape Colony. Port Natal was named by Vasco da Gama when he named the land that he saw - Terra Natalis (Natal is the Portuguese word for Christmas). Kwa-Zulu is the Kingdom of the Zulu. The Zulu empire stretches across the province and the Zulu nation are original warriors and descendants of the Bantu tribe. This little history lesson is to contextualise why South Africa is currently burning and it started in KwaZulu-Natal three days ago where Durban and the rest of the urbanised areas of the region are quite literally on fire.
As we have noticed in many other countries, social media is being used to stir propaganda for uprising. It started with the hastag - FreeJacobZuma. People, mostly those of Zulu ethnicity, were called upon to support an uprising. The flare up started with protesting during the height of our third wave in this global pandemic – already in contravention of our State of Disaster Act. The protesting gained momentum as more people were called on. And then tragedy hit us in a way that we were not prepared for. Trucks were set on fire. Shopping centres, malls and warehouses started burning one after the other. Community shops and small businesses were looted and set alight. The looters and criminal forces outnumbered police that they could do nothing but stand by as factories and businesses burned down. As I write this there are fires all over the city of Durban, Pietermaritzburg and all outlying areas. Communities that house mostly those of Indian (many who are Tamil) ethnicity named Chatsworth and Phoenix were targeted. Tennis courts, mosques and businesses were petrol bombed. Community members and Community Police Forums, some who have licenced firearms, are standing guard and protecting their suburbs, homes, and businesses. The situation is dire. The economy is crippling as more people will be unemployed in a country with already high unemployment of 30%. What started out as a FreeJacobZuma protest has evolved into acts of criminality that has destroyed livelihoods.
The other complexity is our political history that has left a legacy of inequality across the spectrum of our population – most marginalised are the poor. We understand that unemployment and negative economic growth is an issue for most of Africa but those who are looting are brainwashed into believing that the former president is a victim of a conspiracy, when he himself, has orchestrated a plan of State Capture that has nearly destroyed our country. In fact, it is currently destroying us by cutting off our supply chain. It is creating panic buying that was not even present during the times of the start of covid-19.
As with all forms of chaos, there is mass confusion and criminal elements who are manipulating the narrative using different forms of communication. They are turning this into a race war. We know the history of apartheid. The world knows what South Africans had to do to fight the race war and to create a non-racial country. The sad truth is that State Capture, the Zuma presidency with the help of the cunning Gupta family, factions and corruption in our ruling party and many others are responsible for the stagnant and declining economy, and concurrently the increasing unemployment. Add the pandemic, lockdown, stress on the healthcare system and limited access to financial resources and you have the recipe for a burning South Africa. Imploding. Exploding. Disaster.
I am not a political writer. I am also embarrassed that the world must see us in the state that we are in – fearful and desperate yet trying to hold on to some hope. The message I share to all readers is that South Africans are trying very hard to fight off the disaster we are in. We are protecting our assets both personal and business. Communities are actively standing guard and fighting off what seems like coordinated acts of domestic terrorism. The questions we ask lead us to more questions and more conspiracy theories: Who is behind the uprising? What will happen tomorrow? How will we fix this? When will this nightmare end?
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