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eThekwini mayor denies instigating July riots, looting

Siviwe Feketha Political reporter
eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda. File photo.
eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda. File photo.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has accused criminal syndicates of having used the anger over the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma to damage the economy during last year’s July riots which took place in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Kaunda was testifying before the SA Human Rights Commission’s national investigative hearings yesterday, where he was asked about the response of the metro as well as his declaration of support for Zuma during the deadly riots which saw shopping malls and factories being looted and set alight.

“There were groupings which were well organised who orchestrated their plans very clearly. Some of those groupings are people who bombed ATMs. Not a single poor person can bomb an ATM. It is somebody who knows how to bomb an ATM. These people took an opportunity during this period under the disguise that ‘I am also angry that the former president was arrested',” he said.

He said the interest groups had long been in the province and had been responsible for the burning of trucks when they were unhappy with the government in relation to their interests.

“The level of criminality which took place shows that there were opportunistic individuals who came on board and said, because people are angry, this is where their interests can find expression. I think that is what transpired,” Kaunda said.

Evidence leader Buang Jones questioned Kaunda on what he made of the social media posts by Zuma’s backers in the lead-up to unrest, including insults that were directed at President Cyril Ramaphosa and the current national leadership, which he said he opposed.

He said some were openly instigating the violence and that he had openly expressed his opposition to it even though he did declare his support for Zuma.

“There was a voice message which circulated in the country. That message said people must go there and loot and kill Indian people and go to white communities and loot and kill them. As a leader I had to put an emphasis in trying to say we are all equal and we should not be treating each other as white, Indian and African communities. That is the message I preached after that voice note,” he said.

Kaunda said he had been recorded when he was merely repeating what had been said in the voice note to make him look like an instigator. “They stopped the video there and started to say I am saying people must go and kill Indian and white people,” Kaunda said.

He said there were people who had been part of the looting spree because of their own socioeconomic conditions. “It must not be condoned. It does not mean when you are having troubles in life you must commit crime, but there were people who were just genuine and would say, ‘I see milk and I can’t afford to buy milk’,” he said.

Jones pressed Kaunda over his post on July 6 in which he said the support for Zuma was “a well-guided and principled one and that there must be no detour from that mission”.

Kaunda said he had rebuked people who insulted Ramaphosa over Zuma’s arrest and that he had said they had to be both respected.

He said supporting Zuma was however part of his constitutionally protected rights of expression and association.

“Those rights are protected and therefore no-one must touch you on the basis that you are raising support for an individual. There are people in this country that supported that Msholozi must fall and no-one made noise about it,” he said

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