Last week saw the release of the expert panel’s report assessing the 2021 July unrest in South Africa, which caused the deaths of over 350 people and cost the country’s economy more than R50 billion. Dated 29 November 2021, the 154-page report blamed factional infighting, corruption, state capture and socio-economic conditions as largely informing the riots, holding the government “unequivocally” responsible. Significantly, the report’s drafters noted that they weren’t given access to classified intelligence and were not able to meet the security cluster as a whole, impeding their investigative ability.
Speaking to Radio Islam International, Shan Maharaj, a member of the Phoenix based Ubuntu Peace Forum, was excited about the findings, noting that much of this was contained in the Forum’s submission to the panel: “We were very excited that many of the things [concluded] were [contained] in our submission… as an example, we said that overall, central government must take full responsibility for the riots that happened.”
Maharaj noted the fact that action needed to be taken against the instigators, but felt that this would most likely not occur. He said, “I think that heads must roll and ministers in charge have failed… our own contention is that there is no political will to address the balance of the people, because there is too much at stake at the political level for arrests to be made at the senior level… There’s no point arresting the foot soldiers, [while] the people who sat in dark rooms, orchestrating an insurrection are still walking free today.”
Maharaj also reiterated a finding of the report – that many believed that this kind of unrest could occur again – saying, “as long as the factions continue, there would be a threat of violence.” He argued that the security and intelligence sectors needed to takes steps to stop future unrest, and not have to react after it had already commenced.