Violent protests no longer about Zuma, but organised 'economic sabotage': South African ministers

·3-min read

Johannesburg, Jul 14 (PTI) Two South African ministers on Wednesday termed as 'economic sabotage' the raging violence over the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, after several factories and vital supply routes were burnt down.

The violence began last Wednesday after Zuma began serving his 15-month sentence in a contempt of court case. The riots have led to 72 deaths and over 1,200 arrests.

'The plan (of the instigators) is beyond what we see now and that is the plan that we must deal with,' Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa told the media in Soweto as the local community gathered to protect the iconic Maponya Mall in the sprawling, mainly Black township.

'This is economic sabotage. Those who are just promoting violence through cyberspace don't know that there are people behind it (the unrest) who have ulterior political motives, but we must make sure that we are ahead of them,' Kodwa said.

The protests started with a call to release 79-year-old Zuma from jail, but have now devolved into massive looting and destruction of infrastructure.

Though President Cyril Ramaphosa has deployed the Army and police, they are found outnumbered in many areas by the rioters.

Zuma started his 15-month sentence last Wednesday after the country's Supreme 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.

'If you see what happened in Durban yesterday -- warehouse and distribution centres targeted; and Afrox (African Oxygen Ltd, the largest oxygen production centre in South Africa) this morning. Those are some of the economic sabotages that we are talking about. That's what we call a popular revolt when people can no longer get basic necessities and this is what we must counter,' Kodwa said.

Durban is the port through which 90 per cent of South Africa’s imports move inland.

Kodwa commended the people who had gathered in Soweto for their stance against the rioting. For a sixth consecutive day, looting and destruction continued in Zuma's home province, KwaZulu-Natal, which includes Durban.

Kodwa called on community groups to rally behind the security forces to protect the infrastructure.

'The condition of our people (through huge unemployment and poverty) are being exploited and being used by someone sitting somewhere with political agendas and ulterior motives to destabilise this country,' Kodwa said.

Minister of Mineral and Energy Resources Gwede Mantashe echoed Kodwa's views. He said the riots were an excuse to destroy infrastructure, a form of economic sabotage, through a sophisticated and coordinated effort.

'I can assure you that it is not anything to do with Zuma. It is everything to do with thugs who want to get rich quick and steal as much as they can as soon as possible,' Mantashe told the TV channel Newzroom Afrika.

There have been widespread allegations, confirmed on Tuesday by State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, that former senior staff of the State Security Agency loyal to Zuma were masterminding the looting and destruction.

Allegations have also surfaced of some politicians remaining sympathetic to Zuma.

Observers recalled that Zuma was once the highly-respected head of intelligence for the now ruling party, the African National Congress, when it was in exile during the era of the white minority apartheid rule in South Africa.

Dlodlo said these allegations were currently being investigated. PTI FH IND AKJ IND

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