Johannesburg, Jul 13 (PTI) Premier of Jacob Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Sihle Zikalala has described the violent protests against the former South African president’s incarceration that have resulted into massive looting and arson as a 'disturbing situation' that has the potential to “destablise” the country.
Zikalala was speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday as the province continued to bear the brunt of five days of unprecedented incidents of looting and arson by huge mobs that have spread across the country.
Violent mobs of rioters have been burning vehicles and factories, looting stores, and blockading main routes in the city of Durban since Friday night in response to social media calls themed #FreeJacobZuma and #KZNShutdown.
Durban is the port from which over 90 per cent of South Africa’s imports make their way inland.
“We have seen violent incidents which from the beginning appeared to have arisen as a response to the incarceration of former president Comrade Jacob Zuma, but have now unfolded into an unprecedented and extremely disturbing situation as it poses a threat to human life and carries the potential to destabilise our country at a time when we are all trying to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Zikalala said.
“We understand calls for the release of Zuma from his incarceration in Estcourt (Correctional Centre) as the main cause of these disturbances. What may have begun as an understandable cause supported by many, has degenerated into criminality,” he added.
Zuma started a 15-month sentence last Wednesday after the country’s apex judicial authority, the Constitutional Court, found him guilty of contempt of court because he refused to return to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, where he has been repeatedly accused of involvement in corruption by witnesses.
“We cannot and should not in a matter of days destroy that legacy which Zuma fought and sacrificed so hard for. We are appealing to citizens of KZN to give space to interventions proposed by government to bring peace,” the Premier said.
Zikala said the estimated costs of damage during the looting in the province would amount to over a billion rands, but economists said this could double as the burning down of factories and businesses continued unabated even as the Premier spoke, with little action from the police and the army which President Cyril Ramaphosa called in on Monday night to quell the massive looting.
Zikalala said the soldiers had been deployed to some strategic installations of national importance, but would now also be going to other areas.
He said the call for the release of Zuma from the prison was “understandable” but not a justification for looting and violence.
Reacting to a question on whether Zuma’s release would calm the situation, Zikalala said there was “a genuine cry” for his release that must be understood and listened to but this had to be done peacefully and within the law.
“There is nothing wrong with people who call for the release within the law and not disrupting other people and interfering with the rights of others. We, especially as the ANC, support that and we will call for that through following due processes within our law and constitutional framework,” the Premier concluded. PTI FH MRJ MRJ