Instigation, insurrection & informality – eroding the rule of law


Violent protest, criminality, political thuggery and looting are not new phenomena in South Africa’s social political firmament. They’re features derived from an inheritance of struggle and resistance, the general trajectory of rendering the country ungovernable on instruction from the African National Congress. Perhaps not ideal, it is legitimate and understandable under the circumstances, even if its more pernicious have been harder to leave behind. This trajectory has continued into the post-apartheid era in the direct action centred on community protests around service delivery, an unresponsive government or internecine party factional strife. The general contagion also sees it spreading from one area to another, in copy-cat acts. If current political cultures in society trace their lineage to the past, so too do unacceptable acts of injustice, inequality and marginalisation. Looting and criminality of the successive unjust colonial and colonial-apartheid “governments” get rehearsed and repeated by a democratically elected one.

Both in scale and intensity, the protests of the last few days – what can only most properly be called a seditious insurrection – are different in motive, scale, spread and intensity, unmatched by anything that has gone before. The multiple community, service delivery, or party factional protests are usually motivated by relative deprivation, unresponsive public officials, and contagion copy-cat acts targeted at getting the attention of policymakers, or for resource mobilisation for community development.

But the current insurrectionary wave is clearly orchestrated. It is unmistakably planned, targeted, coordinated and managed to disrupt normal social life, production, distribution, trade and commerce, as well as the supply lines that sustain and facilitate them. Naturally, along with the managed aspects, it is to be expected that opportunistic and spontaneous acts of sporadic looting and generalised mayhem will feature. The two exist in a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, calculated to inflict maximum damage in destabilisation in society.

What is this destabilisation in service of?

Keeping out former President Jacob Zuma and acolytes from prosecution and jail. These are calculated to stray momentum away from the upcoming trails and substantive charges faced, especially since a degree of predictability and consistency is clawing its way slowly back into the criminal justice system.

Lurking behind the “reasoning” of the “protests”, what Mzwanele Manyi, spokesperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation, calls the “righteous indignation” at the jailing of Zuma, are misrepresentations and fallacious legal and political arguments, designed to obfuscate the real issues and infractions through constructing arguments engaging in false equivalences.

On the legal front, this has centred on two principled arguments. The first suggests that the court decided such exceptional and extraordinary procedures for hearing Zuma’s case that these are tantamount to targeting that. He is therefore a victim. Further, that he was denied by dint of the special procedures – a properly ventilated consideration of the issues in a lower court. This was unnecessary. There were no issues for ventilation. The simple requirement was for Zuma to appear before the Constitutional Court and simply state why he refused to respond to a series of summons to appear before the state capture commission of enquiry. Legally speaking, there was no “special procedures” that the court invested, as is falsely claimed.

Second, is a comical attempt at a political argument about “detention without trial” by trying to make a political argument masquerade as a legal juridical, one. First, there was no trial because Zuma refused to appear, despite being granted the opportunity. In effect, he denied himself a trial. The emotive fall-back to ugly memories of apartheid era detentions without trial failed, despite numerous rehearsals of the canard.

More egregious than pretend legal argument (and the subsequent shifty ones made in the rescission application, which seems more like an appeal and a mitigation argument) is the so-called political argument.

These arguments are unsurprising coming from political revanchists like Mzwanele Manyi and the vaccillating Julius Malema harking bark to the days of Zuma’s manipulative, but calculated informalised mode of government.


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