KZN unrest: Premier must face reality or leave a legacy of devastation
18 August 2021
Attempts by KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala, to restore peace in our province following last month’s violent unrest - with preliminary costs of damage estimated at R2 billion - will amount to little until such a time as he faces reality.
Earlier this week, the Premier announced that in an effort to address the root causes of the recent unrest and violence, his ANC-led provincial government was working with religious leaders, traditional leaders, civil society organisations and the business community.
While the DA welcomes any measures at restoring calm in our province, including uniting different communities, the reality is that the Premier needs to look closer to home if he is to identify the real reason for the insurrection.
And by “home” we mean that he needs to look at the ongoing factionalism within his own political party - the ANC. Treating the symptoms will not alleviate the cause.
The unprecedented carnage as a result of the uprising is a direct result of internal discord which has split the ANC right down the middle. More specifically, it is the result of an attempt at insurrection by the ANC’s Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction.
Regrettably, it is also the result of a Premier who has, for far too long, been allowed to place his own personal political agenda ahead of the needs of our province. The fact remains that if the ANC government had bold members who are prepared to lead, it would have been prevented.
Instead, Zikalala and his fellow ANC provincial cabinet members stood by – paralysed and ineffective - and watched as our province burned.
Openly displaying support for Zuma on the one hand and then condemning the anarchy on the other is ludicrous. To then try to assure foreign investors that KZN is a safe and secure investment has taken matters to a whole new level.
There can be little doubt that the insurrection was a very frightening time for many citizens, who were left to defend themselves as violent mobs terrorised our cities and towns. Yet, to date, the Premier and his cronies remain unaccountable.
It is critical that justice is done - and seen to be done - for not only the looters and instigators, but also those who failed in their constitutional duty to protect citizens. There have to be consequences for the damage and loss of lives and livelihoods.
The DA will not allow this matter to rest. No amount of lame-duck media releases from the Premier's Office, in an attempt to assure accountability, will change our mind.
To begin with, we expect the Premier to take action against those members of the Legislature who were found to be involved in the incitement of unrest. This includes any event leading up to the incarceration of disgraced former President Jacob Zuma – the initial catalyst which is alleged to have sparked the violence and looting.
Whether the Premier will act, remains to be seen. Experience has shown that the ANC cannot self-correct and this will certainly be a test of his own moral compass.
Our province has a very long way to go in terms of rebuilding. The DA has been hard at work and has launched its own plan to unite, rebuild and protect KZN communities. For our efforts and those of other stakeholders to work in the long-term though, the real cause of the unrest must be fully exposed and finally dealt with.
The Premier needs to open his eyes and act in the interests of KZN’s people. The alternative is that his legacy will be one of devastation for our province.
Issued by Francois Rodgers, Leader of the DA in the KZN Legislature, 18 August 2021