A FAMOUS GROUSE
THE rogue state of Nkandlastan waged war on its neighbours this week and in the process unleashed a maelstrom of nihilism way beyond its control. The scale of the destruction is immense, the vandalism and looting beyond description.
We now reap what the years of corrupt misrule and ineptitude have sown. It cannot be undone, and all we now hope for is that the fires die out sooner rather than later and we may then sift through the ashes in search of what is salvageable and steel ourselves for the inevitably fatuous “lessons” from what the UK media have called “the Zuma riots”.
It’s a convenient label, effective too. Culpability of sorts is immediately established, at least as far as the evening’s television viewers are concerned: it is the supporters of the former president who are torching the country. Newsreaders talk of “protesters” and “demonstrators”, enraging the expat community here. Their WhatsApp groups hum with indignation: these are criminals, they charge, not protestors. Where are the posters and placards? What are they protesting? What’s with all the lipstick on the pig?
But no matter, the world is aghast; after a quarter-century, South Africa is back on prime-time news and the subject of international scrutiny.
There are those, inevitably, who argue that the riots are not about Jacob Zuma. They claim his imprisonment was merely the catalyst for this catastrophe. The unrest, they say, is the inevitable consequence of poverty, unemployment and the hardships of lockdown. Years of neglect and hopelessness on the margins of society have created a situation where practically any grievance, no matter how slight, would have tipped the balance into violence and anarchy.
Well, yes and no.
True, conditions were ripe for upheaval. We can debate about where the rot started, but there’s no denying the lot of South Africans deteriorated during the Zuma era; in fact, a case could be made that the riots are an extension of the corruptible culture fostered by Accused Number One’s elite over the years. Routinely safeguarded by the ANC, the impunity with which they went about their criminal enterprise is echoed in the streets of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
There is a suggestion, then, that the spontaneity of the violence is due to a deeply-rooted poverty. It’s a half-arsed attempt at “legitimising” the destruction and a bit like blaming the drought-seared trees on the slopes of the Peninsula mountain range for being bone dry when arsonists set their fires.
As I see it, there is nothing sporadic or spontaneous about what we have witnessed over the past week. The speed with which the destruction spread — more than 200 shopping malls sacked in just four days — is one indication of an orchestrated scorched earth campaign. The surest signs of such an offensive however have come from Nkandla, out of the mouths of uBaba’s own idiot children and his moronic supporters.
What they have wrought brings a grim resonance to Thabo Mbeki’s favourite poem, That rough beast of Yeats’s The Second Coming no longer slouches but rampages through the streets, torch in hand and pushing a laden shopping trolley. Like many other commentators, I’ve been following its grim progress and taking notes.
Dudu & Dudu
Forget Edward Zuma. The last we saw of the bastard he was drunk at the gates of Nkandla, waving a stick around, as his father was motoring off to prison at Estcourt. The terrible twins, Duduzile and Duduzane, narcissists from hell, have now moved centre-stage.
The latter, unbelievably, is hoping to capitalise on the riots to further his own political ambitions. Mindful that at such times it behoves those who wish to become president to behave in a manner that is presidential, he has posted a video on Instagram in which he expresses concern for the safety of those who may one day regard him as their leader:
“For the people who are armed and defending themselves, please do so responsibly and please do so carefully. And, similarly, for the people who are protesting and looting, please do so carefully and please do so responsibly, because you cannot hold people responsible for defending what they love.”
Please bear in mind that Duduzile was not speaking off the cuff here. He elected to post that nonsensical drivel himself. His sister, Duduzile, is no better and has refashioned herself as a hybrid of Tokyo Rose and a viking berserker in the days since their father’s imprisonment.
Together with her twin, she has posted tweets designed to incite looting and the destruction of property. This is according to DA leader John Steenhuisen, who told reporters on Tuesday that the party intends to lay criminal charges against the pair in this regard.
A dirty dozen
Outside the family circle, rogue spook Thulani Dlomo, former head of the State Security Agency’s special operations unit, has been identified as a prime suspect in fomenting the violence.
News24 reports that police have been informed by intelligence agents that Dlomo, fiercely loyal to Zuma, is “a key person of interest” here and is a central figure in orchestrating the riots. The state security minister, Ayanda Dlodlo, told journalists on Tuesday that former SSA agents were being investigated, but did not name Dlomo. “We did receive such information,” she said, “and we are investigating it.”
Another person of interest, then, is former Ukhozi FM “radio personality” and #FreeJacobZuma campaign driver, Ngizwe Mchunu. He was at Nkandla on Wednesday, July 7, the night uBaba was incarcerated. He then turned up in Johannesburg on Sunday at KwaMaiMai, a traditional medicine market and hostel inhabited by workers from KZN.
There, he delivered a “state of the nation” address in which he delivered an ultimatum to Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo: they had three days to release Zuma. The violence erupted in Gauteng shortly afterwards.
What happened to the ultimatum, you may well ask, but really, who needs ultimatums when absolute anarchy is the order of the day?
Mention must also be made of Zihogo “Mgilija” Nhleko, the now deposed Zulu regiments leader who bought armed and thuggish amabutho to Nkandla to pledge support for Zuma. According to Daily Maverick, it was the defection of these “traditional” Zulu fighters from the Inkatha Freedom Party to the ANC that had contributed to the latter’s electoral success in KZN in the 2009 elections; a victory, commentators politely noted, that came at the expense of the liberation movement’s ethos of non-tribalism.
The IFP later admitted that it was Zuma’s “Zuluness” that had contributed greatly to the surge in support for the ANC in the province. The IFP’s Mangosuthu Buthulezi told City Press in 2019 that those who left to join the ANC did so on ethnic grounds: “[They were] saying, ‘Maybe it is the turn of the Zulus to have a head of state.’ Some people even in the IFP were talking about this. There was a false (belief) that a ‘Xhosa nostra’ was dominating the government.”
Many of Zuma’s cheerleaders decry this talk of tribalism. One of them is, of course, our old friend, Carl Niehaus. On Tuesday, he tweeted a photograph of white looters, with the arch observation, “Hmmm, Zulu ethic mobilization??” (sic)
He has since deleted the post, but not before journalist Julian Rademeyer pointed out that the picture was of American tourists on the rampage in a supermarket in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Odile in September 2014.
Shame, poor Carl. Can’t even get the fake news right.
But, moving on. There are, according to police minister Cheek Bile, at least a dozen people who are behind the violence. He reportedly told reporters on Tuesday:
“One [Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla] or two names have been mentioned here. There are 12 names that the security cluster is looking at. They are being pursued. They are not spared when they break the law, it doesn't matter who you are…
“We have to get the agitators. This is what law enforcement is doing … sifting those who had been taken by the mob spirit to go there [to loot] and those who are planners and agitators on these matters.”
Anyone who saw Bile’s shambolic performance on television, reading from a prepared statement that appeared to have been written in a foreign language, will not have been persuaded that the enforcement of any law is in any way close at hand.
But could EFF leader Julius Malema be one of those agitators? Steenhuisen certainly believes so, and the SABC has reported that Malema’s Twitter account has been suspended after “recent tweets regarding the violent protests and looting happening in KZN and Gauteng.”
No word yet, though, on Duduzile’s account. We watch this space with interest.
There is a crisis, one that requires an urgent response. Squirrel’s address to the nation on Monday, however, was not at all inspiring. He looked ill, as grey as putty. He droned on in that soporific monotone about restoring calm and stability without delay, about preventing the loss of life, about halting the destruction of valuable infrastructure and property, about mobilising all available resources to restore order.
There was no indication of a coherent plan of action whatsoever. But on and on he lumbered, all the while sharing the screen with a rolling live feed of the carnage. The message it presented to viewers was simply this: “You’re stuffed. And guess what? So am I.” So well done there, SABC. It’s almost as if Auckland Park wants to be included in Bile’s list of his dirty dozen culprits.
Unsurprisingly, opposition parties were not at all pleased with the address. On the one hand, the DA said that Squirrel was not doing enough to quell the violence; on the other, the EFF say he has been too extreme in summoning the SANDF to assist the police. Both however agreed that parliament should have been more consultation with parliamentary structures.
But here’s a thought, courtesy of Business Insider: about 76 000 troops were deployed to enforce lockdown regulations during the early stages of the pandemic —while only 2 500 troops will be deployed in response to the looting. Not for nothing is there speculation that there are those within the ANC who wish to see the country laid to waste a la Pol Pot’s Year Zero in order that a new socialist state may rise from the smoke and rubble.
To make it worse, Squirrel has since welcomed a proposal for a national day of prayer. It would be laughable, were it not so pathetic.
And so the citizens fend for themselves.
Anyone who has been monitoring the posts of neighbourhood watch groups on social media and others who have rallied to protect their homes and communities will know the situation they are facing is dire. Their messages to friends and relatives and pleas for help on voice messages are punctuated by gunfire and explosions. Residents in KZN face food, medical and water shortages. The province’s economy is all but destroyed. The vaccination rollout there has been wiped out. There is talk of privately-funded chartered cargo flights with emergency supplies to Durban, but who knows how safe the airport will be…
The country’s taxi associations, meanwhile, have taken the fight to the looters. Taxi drivers have been going door to door in Diepsloot, outside Johannesburg, in a bid to recover looted goods. Their methods are simple, yet effective: “No receipt, a clap, and you carry the goods to the police station.” (sic) One merchant, posting a photograph of returned goods, tweeted in response: “Almost everything from the store I work for was looted, very proud to say we recovered almost everything with the help of those guys.”
Elsewhere, a memorandum from Mabopane’s Mawikta Taxi Association is circulating on social media. Addressed to the community, it states, “Be informed that Mawikta will be monitoring all shopping centre, central city, Mabopane Square and Morula Complex against the looting and vandalizm. Please stay away from those centres. Mawikta is declaring war against looters and vandalizm.” (sic)
In the Eastern Cape, taxi bosses have also come out against the looters, according to a Ground Up report. Ricardo Tromp, who chairs the Algoa Taxi Association, said, “We are monitoring all the malls as [the SA National Taxi Council] encouraged us to protect our malls.”
Gabs Mtshala, Santaco’s provincial deputy chair, added, “We are calling on all our members and drivers to defend those properties and deal decisively with those disturbing our business. Should we allow malls and businesses to be destroyed and closed, we would lose business and our taxis would be repossessed and will never recover from that.”
The reasons for their stance may be self-serving, as a video posted by Roman Cabanac of a meeting between Nigel Taxi Association members and local business community makes clear: their job is to get people to work; for that to happen, people need to have work to get to. Simple, really.
Cynics are suggesting that these are tomorrow’s warlords flexing their muscles.
But, looking at a photograph on Twitter of four minibus taxis — just four — guarding the Soshanguve Crossing mall outside Pretoria from possible looters … well, I feel that’s a lot more protection than Durban has at the moment.