SAHRC July violent unrest investigation underway


A second investigation into July’s massive outbreak of violence across two provinces, this one by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) started work yesterday (Monday, 15 November) and will hear submissions for the next three weeks.

Following the unrest, described in various quarters as “insurrection”, which left more than 300 dead and saw billions worth of damage caused to infrastructure, property and goods, a presidential panel was named by Cyril Ramaphosa to review government’s response.

An SAHRC statement has it “the unrest was characterised by loss of life, targeting of retail centres, malls, shops and other businesses, schools as well as transport systems. Reports state that damages emerging from the claims being dealt with by the State insurance company in the wake of the unrest, amounted to R25 billion”.

“The unrest deepened unemployment, poverty and rampant socio-economic inequality in South Africa. The unrest exacerbated, among others, inequality between certain communities, unemployment levels, poverty, hunger and food insecurity.

“Also of concern to SAHRC are reports that as many communities took to the streets to protect their neighbourhoods and businesses, allegations surfaced of excessive use of force, racial profiling, assaults, arson and killings.

“It has been suggested the unrest was orchestrated, there was a high degree of organisation and instigation leading to the unrest and that authorities ought to have known and adequately prepared to secure the towns and cities affected.”

The SAHRC investigation is part of the organisation’s Constitutional mandate to investigate and report of human rights and possible infringements.

Commissioner André Gaum chairs the hearing panel with support from commissioners Chris Nissen and Philile Ntuli. If deemed necessary external experts will be used.

The first day’s session was largely confined to events and incidents at Pietermaritzburg’s Khan Road Corner informal settlement. The three person panel heard from five witnesses of “indiscriminate” shooting and attacks.

Ramaphosa’s expert panel comprises Professor Sandy Africa (chair), Advocate Mojanku Gumbi and Silumko Sokupa. It was given three months to investigate and compile a report for the country’s first citizen when he named the trio late in September.