Police were yesterday preparing for what was feared to be yet another night of violence after KwaZulu-Natal woke up to debris and the skeletons of torched trucks scattered along several of the province’s busiest roads.
All this happened in the wake of the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma after the Constitutional Court slapped him with a 15-month direct imprisonment sentence last week for contempt of its order to appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.
Work was under way for the better part of yesterday to clear the N3 at Mooi River of the burnt trucks, tyres and other debris that was used to barricade the road.
The N3, N2 and N7 from the Port of Durban were the most affected.
There were fears that the protests could spill over into other provinces after posters were circulated on social media, inviting Zuma’s supporters to a gathering at Kwa Mai Mai in Johannesburg today.
“Police in other provinces are on high alert, keeping a close eye amid continued threats of widespread violence,” the SA Police Service said yesterday.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker said more officers had been mobilised to be “deployed along major routes and key points within each district to deal with criminal elements that are responsible for recent incidents of lawlessness”.
“We will be focused on enforcing the regulations of the Disaster Management Act more, especially the convening of illegal gatherings as well as those who are not observing curfew regulations,” Naicker said.
He added that at least 27 people had been arrested by noon yesterday on charges ranging from public violence and theft to intimidation and damage to essential infrastructure.
Trucking industry suffered the mostBy Saturday, at least 23 trucks had been reportedly torched overnight around the Mooi River area alone.Most trucking companies instructed their drivers to stay away from the roads leading to KwaZulu-Natal.
It was, however, too late for some to keep their fleet away from the chaos. One of those counting losses is Craig Moralee, the owner of Skye Logistics, whose fuel tanker which he said was bought brand-new about two months ago was torched close to the Mooi River toll plaza on Friday evening.
“It happened about 100m from the toll gate ... The driver was forced out of the truck, which was used to blockade the road,” Moralee said.
The next thing he heard, flames were licking his trucks at about 10.30pm. All he saw in the morning were pictures of a burnt-out shell of his recently acquired truck which he used to ferry diesel to Gauteng.
“We’re thankful that the driver was not harmed, although he was shaken by the whole experience. We have since asked all our drivers to park the trucks. It is sad that now we are one truck down, not only one driver’s job will be affected but more than one because they work on rotational basis,” Marolee said.
“The thing is, you can’t just go to the shop and buy a tanker as they are pre-ordered and it can take about three months before one is delivered.”
Meanwhile, while it was relatively calm across the province on Saturday, but the Road Freight Association (RFA) said it was worried that the violence could escalate.
“We are aware that the police manpower was beefed up, but it seems like the violence still went out of control. There seems to be no way of determining what is going to happen next and where,” said RFA chief executive Gavin Kelly.
“As the industry, we are now going to discuss whether to continue working in KwaZulu-Natal or stop until things are back to normal and conducive for us to resume operations.”
Jacob Zuma Foundation won’t condemn violence
One thing that seemed hard to come out of the spokesperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation spokesperson’s mouth was anything close to condemning the violent protests.
In an interview with the SABC yesterday, Mzwanele Manyi said it was all in the hands of the country’s apex court to reverse its decision to jail Zuma, adding that all that was happening was because of the court’s decision.
Manyi described the protests and violence as the “righteous anger of the people because of the injustice that they see being dispensed against president Zuma”.
“The anger that you see has been instigated by the authorities. We call upon the authorities to desist with their violent sentence ... We call upon the Constitutional Court to use Monday [when Zuma’s application for the court to rescind his sentence will be heard] as a day of reflection and to take the country out of this misery and rescind the unconstitutional and unlawful sentencing of a person without fair trial,” he said.
He also said they were calling for the Constitutional Court to “self-correct” on Monday as “there will be no peace in South Africa as long as Zuma is jailed under conditions which are unjust”.
Manyi said the foundation was against what he described as “selective morality”, which he said was when “the media and everybody else are not seeing anything wrong with a man being sentenced without a trial ... and all of a sudden when people are provoked and when righteous anger is unleashed then you start to see wrong with people responding to a vicious sentence”.
However, the foundation did express concerns around Zuma’s health.Manyi said they were anxious about a “79-year-old man sitting in a cold cell”.
“We are very worried that his health is going to deteriorate at a rapid rate and we shudder to think about what would happen if his health condition continues to deteriorate ... He is a man of comorbidities,” he said.
Calls for calm
The ANC has expressed its concern on the ongoing violence in KwaZulu-Natal.
“We are concerned that the destruction of property [which is] impeding on the functioning of the economy will undermine efforts to create jobs and improve the lives of citizens.”
“The ANC urges law enforcement agencies to act firmly and expeditiously within the law against any form of lawlessness, public violence, damage to property and the disruption of economic activity and service delivery,” said party spokesperson Pule Mabe.
“The ANC has instructed the provincial executive committee of KwaZulu-Natal to intervene immediately and engage our structures and all relevant stakeholders. Bringing peace and stability to affected areas is a priority for the ANC and the democratic movement.”
Meanwhile, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala reiterated calls for peaceful protests.
“We call for calm and maximum adherence to the rule of law as we see the threats of shutdown in the province. We understand the extreme anger of the people who are protesting and as the country and the province we find ourselves in a very unusual and unique situation, wherein we are dealing with the arrest of a former president of the ANC and former president of our country.
“We are dealing with very challenging times, however, we call on those who are protesting to do so through peaceful means and to avoid violence and destruction at all costs,” he said.