July civil unrest Presidential panel has three months to investigate and report


The three-strong expert panel named by President Cyril Ramaphosa to review government’s response to public violence, destruction of property and looting in July has been set nine objectives for its three month-long task.

Panel members Professor Sandy Africa (chair), Advocate Mojanku Gumbi and Silumko Sokupa were appointed on 20 August and the President this weekend approved the panel’s terms of reference.

Africa is an associate professor at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Human Sciences with research interests in, among others, security sector governance, civil-military relations, peacebuilding and democratic transition.

Gumbi is a human rights lawyer, who worked as an attorney and advocate with over 30 years in private practice, public policy development and African conflict resolution.

Third panel member Sokupa is a former deputy head of the SA Secret Service and former national co-ordinator of the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee (NICOC).

Ramaphosa, in an announcement on The Presidency website, lists nine has-to’s for the panel.

All start by asking the panel to “inquire into” and variously continue on making findings, capability, availability and “adequacy of leadership and command structures”.

Given the apparent ignorance of social media before and during the deadly unrest, Ramaphosa also wants the panel to review what information relevant to the outbreak of violence and looting was available to “government structures” leading to and after violence broke out. In similar vein, South Africa’s first citizen asks for inquiries and findings on how information relevant to the violence and looting was managed, processed and co-ordinated by government.

The panel is also tasked with assessing whether deployment of the security services and law enforcement was “unduly delayed”. If this is true, Ramaphosa wants to know why.

Apart from recommendations, the panel is also expected to recommend “measures and systems” that need to be put in place to respond if similar events occur in future.

More than 300 people died in the unrest sparked, some say, by Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment in Estcourt after he was found guilty of contempt of court. It started in the port city of Durban and spread elsewhere in KwaZulu-Natal, including provincial capital Pietermaritzburg, the midlands and north and south coasts as well as Gauteng. Damage estimated at billions was caused to businesses, infrastructure and houses.