Tshwane violence opinion

Riots in Tshwane and the art of denial

ANC Tshwane spin and reality
ANC dream.jpg

In what smacks of moral bankruptcy, senior ANC officials remain reluctant to shoulder responsibility, but tried to pin the violence in Tshwane on others, placing democracy in jeopardy in the process.

There is ample proof that factionalism and deep divisions have been brewing for years within the ANC in Tshwane.

Failure to deal with problems, leaving them unresolved, culminated in violent protests, which morphed into large-scale looting and loss of life in and around the city.

The ANC leadership’s immediate response was to deny the facts as they were unfolding or to blame “other factors” for the mayhem – driving another nail into the ANC’s credibility coffin. 

Dancing on eggs

The already discredited Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, further damaged his already shattered reputation, and did the ANC no favour, by insinuating that “certain other political parties” were fanning the Tshwane protests.

It came, however, after he had admitted that Tshwane was expected to be an “election hotspot”, but that the level of violence was not anticipated – adding to the growing failure list of the South African security apparatus.

Last year it became obvious that the South African security establishment underestimated the level of student discontent at various tertiary institutions and later also misinterpreted the high level of dissatisfaction among residents of Vuwani, Limpopo.    

Responding to the unrest in Tshwane, Minister Mahlobo, according to a Daily Maverick (DM) report, resorted to “classic smoke-and-mirror diversion tactics” – claiming certain other political parties jumped into the situation to try and cause panic, telling the media: “We know the people who are involved, but we will not have our investigation in public.”

Mahlobo was “parroting a similar line when schools were being burnt in Vuwani, Limpopo recently,” DM reported.

True to form, Minister Mahlobo didnot name these “other political parties” or identified any of the “people involved”.

Neither did he provide any evidence for his claims.

If he had evidence to shift the blame away from the ANC and pin it on any other political parties, why would he hesitate to reveal it, particularly since the violence in the capital city has dealt South Africa’s international image yet another body blow.

Confronted with irrefutable evidence, he agreed to speak the truth, after patronisingly telling the media he needed time to “explain to them how intelligence worked”, when asked about the failure of the intelligence services to foresee and prevent the outbreak of the violence. 

Rather embarrassingly, he admitted in a radio interview that ANC members sparked the Tshwane protests because of dissatisfaction with the processes that selected Thoko Didiza as ANC mayoral candidate in the city.

Minister Mahlobo said the protests against Didiza’s appointment had been “taken to a new level, involving gangs‚ youths on drugs‚ and opportunistic members of the community with a criminal agenda”.

But as the DM points out: “Disowning its supporters does not exonerate the ANC from responsibility for allowing factionalism and patronage to engulf the organisation and for the state of unrest in the country.”

Smoking gun

It will be interesting to see how Minister Mahlobo and other members of cabinet’s security cluster are going to respond to the allegations by Kennedy Mudzuli, a journalist at the Pretoria News.

In an article he makes highly explosive claims, which were widely re-reported, making it impossible to ignore or sweep them under the carpet. Mudzuli reported that the unrest was planned by at least 12 ANC members. It happened at a meeting in a Pretoria hotel, chaired by “a senior ANC official and attended by branch leaders and ward councillors and candidates for the August 3 elections”, within hours of ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte announcing Didiza’s candidacy.

At the meeting a 4-point plan, known as the “Court Classique Resolutions”, was formulated to create chaos until outgoing mayor Kgosientso (Sputla) Ramokgopa was reinstated as Tshwane’s mayoral candidate.

The plan allegedly involved the torching of all government and city properties, closing exits and entry points of all zones, burning the ANC regional office and disrupting all political activities.

Moments after the meeting adjourned, violence erupted in the streets near the hotel and quickly spread.

The opposition Democratic Alliance in a later statement claimed it could confirm that the most violent areas correspond to the constituencies of those implicated in the Court Classique Hotel WhatsApp message.

In what can be interpreted as a response to the Pretoria News article a spokesperson for the Hawks acknowledged they were investigating whether senior ANC members were behind the wave of civil unrest.

“I can confirm that arrests will be made soon of people implicated. Our investigations are at an advanced stage and we have names of people who allegedly orchestrated the violence,” he said.

More fabrications

These allegation and subsequent admissions, including Minister Mahlobo’s admission that the rioting was started by disgruntled ANC supporters, makes a mockery of the ANC head of campaigns and Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyan’s claim to the media that the situation in Tshwane had “allowed agent provocateurs to seize the opportunity…”

Her claim has a sinister ring to it and fits the exculpatory message the ANC so desperately wants to bring across that “dark forces” are the culprits.   

That the protests were later captured and exploited by thugs and looters was to be expected.

It is a scenario repeating itself time and again as legitimate service delivery protests across the country become a “free for all” looting frenzy.

Not unexpectedly, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe also took his cue from her, alleging that “people from other parties were responsible for looting and thuggery”, but somewhat surprisingly did not name any external force, especially the US, as collaborators.

Later, without blinking an eye, he told the media that the ANC had names and pictures of members of the party responsible for instigating the violence.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura also joined the chorus of denialists, demanding that law and order be restored, without showing any remorse for his party’s role in it. In his words, “It does not matter whether this started in the ANC or not.”

Time will tell what will come of the threat by Defence Minister Mapisa-Nqakula that “those who make themselves guilty of such acts (for example, damage to property and infrastructure, incitement to violence, infringing on others’ rights like free movement) will face the full might of the law”.

Particularly if the names of prominent ANC members should be among the guilty.

Great concern        

What is of great concern is the growing number of analysts and commentators warning that the recent Tshwane events are a taste of things to come.

Warnings like “South Africans do not realise their democracy is at stake ...” is gaining momentum, but the ANC-led government seemingly remains in denial. And the disconnectedness of its leaders from its own structures and the communities they are meant to serve, could lead to more violence and killings as the local government election campaign intensifies.

Also read: ANC state capture renders Hawks a lame duck

                  Are municipal elections heading for a mighty mess?

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