Violence amidst the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma

TO: All Media
ATT: News Editors, Human Rights Reporters
For immediate release
Wednesday, 21 July 2021

The Foundation for Human Rights is extremely concerned with the growing violence across the Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng provinces which has resulted in 200 deaths. The protests initially began in Kwa-Zulu Natal as a response allegedly to the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma who was found guilty of the crime of contempt of court for failure to comply with an order of the Constitutional Court and sentenced to 15-months imprisonment. The protests have been characterized by both the government and analysts as a planned mobilization rather than a protest. It has also been hijacked by criminal syndicates and opportunists to spread unrest and looting. There have been numerous reports of violent looting, damage to property, violence against the media, intimidation and other horrendous violent acts. This is not to say that many persons in our society are experiencing hardship as a result of poverty and inequality and saw this as an opportunity to loot. The violence has disrupted the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme with many of the sites having been forced to close. As always, people at the receiving end, especially the marginalized and vulnerable individuals, will be hit particularly hard by the effects of the violence.
The FHR fully supports the statement issued by the South African Council of Churches, in particular that the violence laid bare the unsustainable socio-economic conditions affecting the large majority of the predominantly Black population including poverty, inequality, unemployment, particularly among the youth, and food insecurity. When combined with unaddressed grievances, fake news and active incitement to violence, these have become a trigger for further violence.

The FHR is appealing to all politicians, political parties and South Africans to respect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of others, the rule of law and cease all acts of violence. We encourage all political parties to work together during this turbulent time in our country in encouraging all citizens to stop the violence. Section 17 of our Constitution clearly states that “everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions” but this right must not infringe that of other citizens.

While we recognize the levels of violence and the urgency and complexity of the current situation, we call on the security forces to act with restraint, within the framework of constitutionally guaranteed human rights and in accordance with the principle of proportionality. The South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority should prioritize and act decisively in duly investigating and prosecuting those who have publicly and via social media incited violence and further unrest as well as those who have engaged in organized criminal activity. Foundation for Human Rights Executive Director Hanif Vally went on to say “I thank South Africans who refused to be drawn into this chaos. I also call on all South Africans to commit to undo the harm caused by recent events, to reconstruct our communities and our country for the current and future generations.”

By working and representing predominantly vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities, human rights and social justice civil society organizations link struggles over particular issues such as economic justice, public participation or social cohesion to broader questions of substantive democracy and constitutionalism and address systematic inequalities. Therefore, CSOs have a particular role to play when the society is confronted with the violence of this magnitude. The Foundation for Human Rights will be convening a meeting of CSOs to discuss the issue further and would like to extend its invitation to all those interested. All CSOs interested in the meeting should contact Ms. Millicent Pholosi for more information.

Media inquiries:

Lindiwe Sibiya – 082 634 7154



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