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Lamola faces tough questions over state's failure to charge masterminds behind July riots

No conviction since SA was plunged into chaos

Siviwe Feketha Political reporter
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola. File image.
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola. File image.
Image: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola faced tough questioning over the failure of the state to bring to book political masterminds and criminal syndicates behind the July riots.

There hasn't been a conviction almost a year after the country was plunged into deadly mayhem.

Lamola was on Thursday testifying on the second last day of the SA Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC’s) national investigative hearings which are probing the cause of the unrest and the implications it has on human rights.

SAHRC commissioner Philile Ntuli pointed out that the SA public was losing confidence in the state and the public service as the police and justice system had failed to arrest brazen criminals who had stolen a massive cache of ammunition and bombed ATMs.

Lamola said his department had pumped resources into the NPA and the court system to make the "prosecution ready" for perpetrators.

“We have prepared the court system to be ready in anticipation of the massive arrests. The NPA has put in place a dedicated team that will guide the SAPS in the investigation of these matters, in particular the high-profile ones,” Lamola said.

More than 3,000 alleged looters were arrested along with a few alleged instigators, but there has been no conviction.

None among them is alleged to have been among those who planned the unrest, which was triggered by former president Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment.

Evidence leader Buang Jones asked Lamola if he was not concerned that there had been no high-profile ANC leaders arrested for involvement in or masterminding of the riots, despite the finding by the presidential expert panel into the unrest that it was influenced by intra-party battles within the governing party.

Lamola said: “It does concern me, and it can only end there. I cannot instruct the NPA or the police who and how they must arrest. But I do believe, hopefully, with the information at their disposal, at some stage they will be able to arrest the masterminds behind this unrest.”

Lamola admitted that while some of the instigators and looters had been arrested since the July riots, the state has so far failed to bring to book those who had been truly behind what has been dubbed a failed insurrection. “We do need to see the masterminds, the plotters and the ringleaders of these events to be arrested,” he said.

Lamola said finding those who hatched the unrest plan and throwing them behind bars would serve as a deterrent for future riots and send a message that no-one was above the law.

Jones asked Lamola if he thought Zuma’s imprisonment had served as a reaffirmation of the rule of law, with which he agreed.

Lamola stressed that social cohesion initiatives without economic justice were impossible as socioeconomic conditions continued to segregate citizens and fuel discrimination.

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