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By Rebone Tau

The Free Zuma campaign has elements of criminality and thuggery; these are not protests as we know them. These people are faceless and just burn things and then disappear.

The sad part is that this whole Zuma campaign was started by some ANC members last weekend when they made it clear that Zuma is not going to jail — and today they are nowhere to be seen on the ground. The ANC members who have instigated this campaign have created a problem which they can’t manage. Or perhaps they are happy with what is happening because they are not even condemning it. They are currently only active on social media platforms, while innocent people are being affected and their assets are being destroyed in the name of the campaign.

There is also an element of Zulu nationalism around this. The current turmoil outside of KwaZulu-Natal province reminds me of the political violence of the 80s and early 90s that we witnessed in parts of Gauteng such as Katlehong, Tokoza Soweto and Sebokeng. A lot of innocent people died around that time.

Zulu nationalism also plays a part in the control of the taxi industry in some parts of Gauteng where violence has been a prominent feature. Before this week’s violence, on 1 July 2021 for example, in Soweto some taxis were burned and vandalised. On the same day, there was gunfire exchanged at the Dube and Nancefield hostels in Soweto. A lot of taxi drivers live in the hostels around Gauteng. We know that there are a lot of killings and a lot of unlicensed firearms within the taxi industry.

On Sunday, 11 July 2021, a meeting was held at a place known as Kwa Mai Mai in Johannesburg, a predominantly Zulu area where a lot of taxi drivers hang out. The purpose of the meeting was mainly to discuss the Free Zuma campaign.

During the protests, a news crew from the SABC was robbed in Alexandra, Johannesburg, on 11 July 2021 — also near a hostel. A car belonging to Newzroom Afrika was also vandalised by protesters in the CBD of Johannesburg. The lives of journalists have been placed under threat. Shops have also been looted. This is a clear sign that this campaign has elements of criminality. Another concerning incident also happened in Nkandla last weekend when a SABC journalist was manhandled by a group of Zuma supporters. Journalists need to deliver news to the people of this country. Such incidents threaten freedom of the press in our country. Today a number of businesspeople have become victims of the Free Zuma campaign. It is also alleged that some of the truck drivers had their phones and monies stolen when the Free Zuma campaign started at the Mooi Plaza.

Tribalism is a big problem in South Africa and although some would want to deny it, what is happening now is evidence enough that tribalism and regionalism are rife in this country, and we are not talking about it as a nation. We talk about nation-building and cohesion, but we are not dealing with issues of regionalism and tribalism. 

Everything that is linked to Zuma seems to have an element of Zulu nationalism. We can go back to the arms deal corruption case where it seems to have started. We had people who wore T-shirts with “100% Zulu boy” printed on them. This was a clear sign of Zulu nationalism and it was not condemned at the time. Tribalism is alive in South Africa but we are silent on this compared to other countries on the continent. 

We can’t have a repeat of what happened in the 80s and 90s in the midst of the serious challenges we are facing at this moment. This violence will create more job losses at a time when the unemployment rate is high and continues to rise due to Covid-19.

The ANC leadership needs to go on the ground to manage this situation which was instigated by ANC members in the build-up to the Nkandla weekend as they tried to save Zuma from being arrested. The leadership cannot manage things through statements only, as it has now got out of hand and is also doing a lot of damage to the economy, which is already growing at a very slow pace. We can’t have the Free Zuma campaign costing people their jobs.

The national crime intelligence capacity continues to be exposed, as it is nowhere to be found when there are protests in our communities. In the past, it was government buildings that were burnt and now it has shifted to attacks on the private sector.

What happened at the Mooi Plaza is a classic study in the disruption of a supply chain. The N3 route is one of the most strategic logistics routes in South Africa and in the SADC. Commercially, we are dependent on it — many products that come through the Durban Harbour from other continents are shipped out along the N3. What happened at Mooi Plaza will affect the economy of the country. It is very important for the ANC leadership to place themselves on the ground and find a lasting political solution that will bring peace and stability to our communities.

Originally published by Daily Maverick.