Dear Dudu Zuma-Sambudla,
Following the arrest of your father, former president Jacob Zuma, you took to Twitter in July last year to call upon your fellow South Africans to rise up against JZ’s detention.
You jubilantly reposted footage and reports of people organising to come together to blockade roads and set buildings on fire. The South African Human Rights Commission would later hear that yours was “one of the accounts that was most engaging in the celebratory parts of unrest”.
Now, amidst President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Farmgate scandal, you are at it again.
“I Smell Another Unrest…” you tweeted on 9 June.
I Smell Another Unrest…
— Dudu Zuma-Sambudla (@DZumaSambudla) June 9, 2022
“It’s Time To Take Our Country Back!!!” you exhorted, later the same day, posting a photograph of protesters posing defiantly in front of a burning building. (The image in question actually does not reflect any South African event; it was taken during the 2020 US protests following the murder of George Floyd by police. This technique – passing off old or unrelated photos as if they captured contemporaneous local events — is also one that you employed around the July 2021 unrest.)
It’s Time To Take Our Country Back!!! pic.twitter.com/2F8n9wGoVP
— Dudu Zuma-Sambudla (@DZumaSambudla) June 9, 2022
When JZ was arrested last year, perhaps your tweeting at the time simply reflected the rage and frustration of a daughter who believed her father was being treated unjustly. Perhaps you genuinely had no idea of the scale of horrifying real-life violence that was about to explode.
This time around, it is impossible to give you the benefit of the doubt. If you weren’t aware in July 2021, you now know, beyond all question, what this “unrest” that you gleefully await again entails.
Which raises only one question: How, in God’s name, can you possibly be calling for a do-over?
More than 350 people died in the July 2021 unrest. As Daily Maverick discovered when we set out to investigate what exactly went down between the start of Monday, 12 July 2021, and Wednesday, 14 July 2021, most of them died in almost unimaginably awful ways.
They were crushed to death in looted supermarkets under the weight of dislodged boxes of alcohol and huge hunks of frozen meat. They were burnt alive after becoming trapped in buildings set on fire. They fell from bridges to their death while trying to escape police, or ran on to highways and were smashed by cars, or jumped into rivers and drowned.
They died agonisingly, gasping for breath, after being trampled underfoot by crowds stampeding to access shops. In malls in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, we saw blood still staining staircases and emergency exits days later, an eerie testimony to the mayhem that left bodies lying lifeless in its wake.
Others died in a hail of live ammunition, or after being punctured by rubber bullets fired at close range. Some were murdered by criminals while making their way home with stolen loot.
In KwaZulu-Natal, we heard horror stories of bodies being piled on top of each other in morgues, as the available space could not keep pace with the delivery of corpses. Outside mortuaries, desperately fearful mothers lined up to receive the nightmare news about the fate of their missing children.
Not one of the dead was a white monopoly capitalist. Not one of the dead was a member of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration, or drawn from any of the other groups you rail against on Twitter. Those who died were ordinary black and brown people, mostly living in poverty.
They were men, women and children.
A line we heard again and again from mothers grieving their bright young sons: He was my only hope. He was my only way out of here.
Those who were caught up in the chaos, but survived, told of days spent lying in hospital corridors pleading for attention for bullet wounds. Young men in Durban townships showed us sickening injuries and spoke with weary resignation of the end of promising soccer careers.
Then there were those who lost everything in different ways. Like Dr Mpho Mushadu, the popular Soweto GP whose practice in the Ndofaya Mall was stripped bare, down to surgical instruments and medication, leaving only the bolted-down chairs in his waiting room.
Security guards spoke of their terror and confusion while trying to hold back people from their own communities — their neighbours and friends — from tearing apart shopping centres that offered the only local employment in an ocean of poverty.
In Durban, the horrifying vigilantism that took place in Phoenix left residents of nearby townships hunkering down in a state of trauma and shock. Elderly men and women, frightened of repeat attacks, talked of their desire to flee — to Johannesburg, to anywhere — but with what? All they had was lodged in a community they no longer recognised.
Dudu Zuma-Sambudla, when you tweet your gleeful anticipation of “another unrest”, do you think of these people?
Do you imagine the sight of 350 broken bodies laid out on mortuary slabs and the families who weep for them still?
Do you consider them merely necessary collateral damage — in a political crusade aimed solely at helping your own family?
And, if so: How do you sleep? DM