Round up the unusual suspects

David Bullard on the Hawks belated arrests of some alleged culprits for the July insurrection of last year


Like so many South Africans I am delighted to learn that the Hawks have finally discovered who was responsible for the insurrection that caused so much death and economic damage in July of last year. From first media reports it appears that a sinister group made up of all sorts of highly improbable candidates were the brains behind the mayhem.

News24 reported on August 13th the following:

“Among those arrested this week are a primary school teacher, an employee of a car dealership in Berea who until recently was a Sassa grant recipient, a Department of Health worker who helps manage facilities at Harry Gwala Hospital, a worker at an engineering business, a financial adviser at a major bank, an alarm company technician and an employee of an optometrist in Dundee”.

Let’s ignore for a moment that it has taken over a year to identify the culprits and let’s laugh off the fact that after initially appearing in court they are out on R3 000 bail. I may be getting a little gaga in my dotage but the damage figure for the Durban and Gauteng rioting and looting came to between R50bln (Frogboiler’s estimate) and R70bln (the Durban Chamber of Commerce’s estimate).

Now I’m not the type of fellow to push alien culture down unwilling throats as you well know but surely the immortal words of W S Gilbert from the operetta ‘The Mikado’ must carry some heft here? “Let the punishment fit the crime” seems a fair starting point. This shouldn’t suggest for one moment that if you have attacked someone and left horrible, life changing injuries that you should be subjected to the same injuries. However, an appropriate and related punishment should be found for transgressors. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

For example, in parts of France at the moment there is a hosepipe ban which prevents the French from watering their window boxes and cleaning their cars (something there was very little evidence of when I was last in France). The only exception thus far have been golf courses because they need to keep the greens watered even if the rest of the course is a dusty, desert brown.

Predictably the climate change activists have leapt on this as a display of unacceptable privilege because golf is a game enjoyed by predominantly wealthy people who care nothing for the suffering of the poor. The golf estate managers argue that if the last few yards to the hole aren’t green and smooth then you basically no longer have a golf course and, thus, no more golf tourism. The climate activists argue that’s all very well but hundreds of non golf playing families are going without water just so budding Rory McIlroy’s can enjoy a smooth putt.

So what ingenious scheme have the French climate activists come up with? They are pouring cement into the holes which rather spoils the whole point of golf. After all, who wants to power a golf ball 300 yards down the fairway, then get out a seven iron to chip it onto the green only to find out that the hole has been cemented and that pleasant little plopping sound you hear when you’ve sunk the blighter is entirely missing?

Now the obvious punishment which would fit this crime would be to pour wet cement down the sinks and basins of the dwellings of the climate activists. That would give them pause for thought and I’ll bet it’s a lot easier chipping dry cement out of a golf hole that it is unblocking a whole residential plumbing system,

But back to SA and to the gallimaufry of mixed talents that nearly caused the collapse of the entire country last year. Obviously R3 000 bail isn’t a punishment so it doesn’t technically need to fit the crime.

However, if you’ve been fingered as one of the kingpins loading 60-inch TV screens, mattresses and booze into your Citi-golf then R3 000 looks like a bargain to me and yet another reason not to take our judicial system seriously.

What is far more interesting though is the career mix of those arrested. If I happened to be putting together a Hollywood script for a movie about the attempted overthrow of a third world banana republic, I’m not sure I would have included an optometrist’s employee in the mix. Or indeed a primary school teacher or an employee of a car dealership. It would be difficult to know how one could work them all into the storyline. But clearly our top men at the Hawks will reveal all in the fullness of time or when the suspects appear in court on August 26th. Just don’t hold your breath.

Forgive the deeply cynical frivolity this week dear reader but how on earth is it possible to take anything the ANC is responsible for seriously? Particularly when many of the accused appear in court in ANC regalia?

Particularly when there was almost no credible police response last July and communities were left to defend themselves and open themselves to accusations of racism.

When the rioting and looting first broke out one of the main cheer leaders was Jacob Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla who openly encouraged destruction and violence on her Twitter account and gleefully Tweeted “We see you..Amandla” whenever another truck was torched or road blockaded. How this could be construed as anything other than encouragement is hard to fathom.

An argument has also been made that Duduzile couldn’t have been influencing anyone because the poor and dispossessed don’t own smart phones and if they do they can’t afford data. However, she does have around 200 000 followers on Twitter and who ever said it was the poor and dispossessed who were doing the looting”? Judging by the queue of vehicles pulling up to do some affirmative shopping it was certainly not the poor.

Oddly, the Twitter thought police never saw anything odd in this and the account was never suspended or banned. When I suggested last year that certain online bullies threatening to rape or kill a female journalist might like to do something useful like get a terminal illness my account was immediately banned.

Bearing in mind that the country was told by the President soon after the July attacks that the authorities had a pretty good idea who was responsible and they were going to round them up it does seem strange that only now have they managed to muster this group of highly unlikely suspects, some of whom are fully paid up members of the ruling party apparently attempting to overthrow itself.

In fact, of all those arrested and released on bail only one name stood out as far as News24 was concerned. It was that of Sanele Masuku who is involved in building a bold new South Africa through the ANC Youth League and is a government employee in Richards Bay. Which means he has absolutely nothing to fear. He was also reported as being a former ‘business partner’ of Brumelda Zuma, another of JZ’s many progeny.

But back to WS Gilbert and punishments fitting the crime. In the highly unlikely event that any of those arrested will ever see the inside of a real courtroom or that the judicial system will dare to punish them, what is an appropriate punishment for what most countries would call high treason? I’ve got a few ideas.