Former security guard sentenced to jail for inciting riots in support of ex-President Jacob Zuma

In a landmark ruling, a South African court has handed down a 12-year prison sentence to Mdumiseni Zuma, a former security guard, for his role in instigating the deadly riots that took place in 2021 in support of ex-President Jacob Zuma. This marks the first conviction related to the unrest triggered by Mr Zuma’s arrest. The riots resulted in widespread violence and destruction, claiming the lives of at least 350 people.

Mdumiseni Zuma, who is not related to the former president, played a significant role in inciting people to loot and burn a mall through a video that he shared. The unrest, which lasted for several days, was considered the worst in the country since the end of the apartheid era in 1994. These riots, categorized by President Cyril Ramaphosa as an “attempted insurrection,” originated in KwaZulu-Natal and expanded to Gauteng, the economic hub of South Africa.

Many of Zuma’s supporters were outraged by his imprisonment for contempt of court after he refused to cooperate with a corruption inquiry into his tenure as president. The riots were seen as a manifestation of this anger and frustration, reflecting the deep-rooted socio-political issues prevailing in the nation. As a result of the unrest, over 200 shopping malls were looted, leading to the estimated loss of more than 150,000 jobs.

During the trial, Mdumiseni Zuma claimed that the video he shared was a “drunk prank.” However, the court dismissed this defense and held him accountable for his actions, emphasizing the far-reaching consequences they had. The magistrate highlighted that the destruction caused by the arson attack on Brookside Mall resulted in the loss of lives and livelihoods.

This sentencing sets a significant precedent for the further prosecution of the remaining 65 suspects scheduled to appear in court in connection with the unrest. The court’s decision demonstrates the seriousness with which the law treats acts of incitement and underscores the importance of accountability for individuals who attempt to ignite violence and destabilize the nation.

Jacob Zuma, who served as the president of South Africa for nine years, resigned in 2018 amid widespread corruption allegations. Although he has consistently claimed to be the victim of a political conspiracy, there have been ongoing investigations and inquiries into financial misconduct and nepotism during his presidency. His refusal to testify before a panel led to a 15-month prison sentence, which was cut short when he was granted medical parole after only two months.

The impact of these riots and the subsequent conviction serves as a reminder of the deep-seated issues facing South Africa, including political corruption, socio-economic inequality, and the need for a comprehensive and equitable justice system. The government should take this opportunity to address these underlying problems and work towards healing divisions within the society. Only by addressing these root causes can South Africa move towards a more stable and prosperous future.