On The Insurrection, President Ramaphosa Has Failed to Rise to the Occasion

If ever there has been a moment that required President Ramaphosa to grab the proverbial bull by the horns, rise to the occasion, and lead South Africa, it was the events of the last two weeks

The violence and looting we collectively experienced, in which the brunt of the mayhem was focused on communities in KZN and Gauteng, called for an appropriate response from the Head of State. It called for strong denunciation and the immediate execution of an operation to track, trace, and bring to justice all those responsible. The subsequent belated and poorly coordinated response of the various agencies in the Security Cluster also called for consequence management. 

Shockingly, we have seen none of the above. 

Instead, what we have seen have been mielie-mouthed statements by President Ramaphosa, in which he tries to walk that barely-existing line between his two responsibilities of the Head of State and leader of the governing party, the self-same governing party whose internal factional battles loom large over the insurrection. 

We have seen the President treat this as an internal ANC matter, refuse to respond decisively to this act of High Treason, and refuse to name the perpetrators. We have seen him do this all whilst trying to smuggle in a jab at his ANC opponents when he says, “Using the pretext of a political grievance, those behind these acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrection.”

We have seen the President be contradicted by his own Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on his correct labeling of what happened as an “insurrection”. It is, indeed, possible that maybe he should have used the much stronger label of “High Treason” because what happened meets the definition of same in South African law as;

“any conduct committed by a person owing allegiance to the state with the intention of:

  • overthrowing the government of the Republic;
  • coercing the government by violence into any action or inaction;
  • violating, threatening or endangering the existence, independence or security of the Republic;
  • changing the constitutional structure of the Republic.” 

We have seen the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, and the Minister for State Security, Ayanda Dlodlo, publicly engage in a childish he said/ she said over what intelligence was shared between their respective organisations, if any at all. 

It is now a matter of public record that there was an advanced communication network that directed people to particular locations and how it resembled a planned approach to target key economic infrastructure. 

Indeed, some of the chatter about the pre-planning was shared widely by ANC members some three weeks before the unrest began. It turned the hungry, the poor, and the unemployed of our country into soldiers in a political battle.

There is absolutely no way that such a sophisticated operation could have been executed with the military precision that it was without the knowledge of decision-makers in the security cluster. 

On the off-chance that, indeed, they were caught unawares, then heads were supposed to have rolled by now – from the Ministers, down the DG’s and Generals, and as far down as necessary to ensure that those agencies tasked with protecting country and residents are up to the task. 

An appropriate response to this act of Treason in our country, proportional to the damage that has been inflicted, should be very different from what we have seen from President Ramaphosa. It required that the President play open cards with us as a country. It required that we establish who is behind this act of Treason? Who were the leaders involved? Who was funding this operation? Were any Ministers or government officials involved? Did any members of the SAPS or SANDF support the insurrection? 

These are the kind of matters that needed to be put on the table. 

Once these matters were publicly known, a nationwide manhunt should have begun with South Africa’s most wanted being publicised across the country, with rewards for information leading to their arrest, so that there is no corner of our country for the conspirators to hide. 

We should be receiving a national update every evening, the focus of which would be reporting back on the arrests and prosecutions that have been conducted. What we have seen thus far is woeful, at best, and does nothing to inspire confidence in President Ramaphosa’s bluster to the effect that no stone will be left unturned to establish the answers to these questions. 

The arrest and prosecution of the ringleaders of this insurrection is what is needed. I’m not talking about the small players like a former uKhozi FM DJ. 

Indeed, it appears that once more the powerful and connected criminals are getting away with it, aided and abetted by an incapable state, led by a conflicted political party. 

What is definitely not needed is a Parliamentary Inquiry into the matter. Parliament has not been a defender of the South African people. It has demonstrated time and time again, a willingness to protect their own politically vested interests rather than the interests of the South African people. 

The President has confirmed that this was a politically driven insurrection within the governing ANC’s own ranks. Given this, how can Parliament preside over a process to investigate matters when some of those involved in the insurrection are sitting in the very benches of Parliament conducting the investigation? The members of Parliament cannot be trusted with such an important task. 

This is why we announced that ActionSA is writing to President Ramaphosa and give him 60 days to initiate a Judicial Commission on Inquiry. We will be asking President Ramaphosa to request the Acting Chief Justice to provide a shortlist of 3 judges from which the President should choose one to chair the Commission of Inquiry. 

In the likelihood that President Ramaphosa does not take these steps within 60 days, ActionSA will be laying a complaint before the Office of the Public Protector to ensure that he is compelled to do so just as his predecessor was before him. 

The fact that thousands of South Africans will now be added to the ranks of the unemployed, entirely because of the ANC’s internal factional battles, is unforgivable. It is for this reason that we will not stop until those behind this High Treason are identified, until they are held accountable, and until they pay the price for what they have done.

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