The Zuma riots – OPINION

David Bullard on “the spontaneous explosion of emotion” through KZN, it was anything but


“The failing economy has left half the population living in poverty and sparked mass protests, demanding the removal of a political elite accused of corruption and neglect.”

This short quote was taken from an article on the BBC website about the blackout of the electricity grid in Lebanon. Until recently, the Lebanese were reduced to just two hours of electricity a day, but now that the whole economy has collapsed, no one wants to sell them diesel to run their two main power plants without seeing the money in advance. It could be a frightening warning of what could happen here if we don’t come together soon.

In fact, there are many frightening warnings about what to expect if we study Lebanon. In the 1950s and 1960s, Lebanon was known as the “Switzerland of the East” due to its robust and diverse economy which included tourism, commerce and banking. Anyone who has had the good fortune to taste Ch Musar can also testify that Lebanon is no slouch when it comes to producing world-class wines.

Tourism in Beirut exploded in the sixties and seventies and the city claimed (along with a few other envious capitals) the title of “Paris of the East”. Then came the civil war in 1975 which divided Beirut with the Muslim faction to the west of the city and the Christians to the east.

Much of the city’s cultural and commercial area has become no-man’s land and the effects on the economy have been disastrous. It was estimated that there was an exodus of around one million people from Lebanon as a result of the war.

The majority of them would have been well educated and skilled professionals who possessed transferable skills which were welcome in other parts of the world like South Africa. Since then, Beirut has always been a hot spot and a disaster area.

The huge explosion last August in the port area killed 78 people and caused enormous damage to surrounding buildings and infrastructure. Damage that the Lebanese government is too broke to repair. The explosion was reportedly caused by the ignition of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in an unsecured warehouse for years.

So, whether it is an ongoing war or government negligence, the hapless residents of Lebanon are possibly among the most unhappy people in the world. A stark contrast to what things were barely half a century ago.

A short history lesson on Lebanon and gloomy comparisons aside, isn’t it interesting that the protesting masses in this besieged country “demand the withdrawal of a political elite accused of corruption and neglect”?

This is clearly where we differ. Our fiercely protesting masses are demanding just the opposite – the removal from prison of a corrupt and neglectful politician.

As someone who sometimes struggles to keep a log fire going during the winter months, I marvel that anyone can strike a match on an entire truck, then step back and watch the flames. The car transporter must have posed special challenges, but it was there on social media, blazing nicely with all the luxury vehicles due to be delivered this week also ablaze.

According to what you think of the press, there were about 30 large trucks set on fire at the Mooi River Toll Plaza. All of this suggests that this was not a spontaneous outburst of emotion during Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment but a well-planned operation intended to destabilize KZN and possibly the whole of South Africa. South.

As Lady Bracknell might have put it, “losing a truck in a fire can be considered a disaster, losing thirty suggests that there was a lot of gasoline around”.

In addition to the burnt-out trucks, there were also reports of a lot of looting, so many businesses have closed and are understandably suspicious of the opening. If you are a member of the Radical Economic Transformation fraternity, you can congratulate yourself on a job well done, because you have certainly transformed your economy almost overnight.

The result will be fewer jobs, fewer investors in KZN, less goods transported through KZN and the death of the tourism and hospitality industries. What RET supporters plan to replace all of this with is a bit uncertain, although I imagine looting stores will be a popular alternative to conventional shopping while supplies of food and essentials run out. Is anyone ready to come to Durban with new stock? No, I didn’t think so.

As of this writing, the “pro-Zuma” riots have spread to Johannesburg, with police telling people to avoid the city center which has become a no-go zone. Parts of the M2 motorway were blocked by tires and burning stones, shops in Jeppestown were looted and cars were set on fire as police and passing vehicles were gunned down.

While this presents a huge challenge for the police, one cannot help but wonder if the response has been as forceful as it needs to be. Anyone who has nothing better to do on the weekend than light up a car or participate in a bit of looting obviously won’t be deterred if there is a good chance of getting away with it. And judging by the first reports, it appears to be the case. Admittedly, there were a few arrests but there was no great show of force on the part of the authorities, who were more reactive than proactive.

It probably didn’t help that Pres Frogboiler told the NEC about Zuma’s imprisonment that “we have to be sensitive to people’s pain.” This does not send a very strong message to the truck burners and looters that they have a lot to fear.

As more and more parts of the country flare up, I suspect COVID will soon become the least of our concerns and the country will become increasingly ungovernable. Can you even begin to imagine what will happen if Ace is given a prison term? ___STEADY_PAYWALL___


My fellow columnist Andrew Donaldson got ahead of me, but I was also fascinated to see some of these “protesters” outside Nkandla last Sunday carrying beautifully printed signs (no scruffy messages on the lid of a box in carton for them) demanding the land that was stolen 573 years ago. I immediately sent Jeremy Gordin a WhatsApp to let him know that Whitey was finally off the hook because another thief stole this poor guy’s land in 1448.

What was most impressive was the historical precision displayed by this proud Zulu. For many Europeans the distant story is a bit hazy, although Wikipedia reveals that Albania defeated Venice in the little-known Battle of Oronichea in 1448, but they patched things up after a few months, after which we hardly ever heard of Albania again.

Other than that, the year 1448 was a bit vague but not for the Zulu nation who, if it was a court hearing, could provide solid evidence that it was precisely in 1448 that their land had was stolen by one or more unknown people and could they have it back please.

Of course, it is also possible that some anti-Zuma ne’er do wells distributed these freshly printed signs to semi-literate protesters, knowing it would damage their credibility. South African politics can get very ugly at times.


When I first visited Sydney in 1987 I thought it was a good idea to familiarize myself with some of the linguistic features of the country so I bought the Penguin Guide to Aussie Slang which was turned out to be invaluable. It contained both commonly used words and phrases and one of my favorites to describe someone who is clearly unable to fulfill the demands of their job is the colorful “he couldn’t pull a greasy stick from the ass of a dead dingo “. How many South African politicians could this apply to?

Another great word that I have always loved is “wowser”. He describes someone who considers himself to be morally superior and who seeks to deny others thoughts or behaviors deemed “problematic”.

It’s a word that aptly describes the awakened teachers at an Edinburgh high school who refused to teach the classic American novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men because they send the reader a “dated” vision of the racism and use the dreaded ‘N’mot.

So rather than letting the students make up their own minds, the teachers took it upon themselves to protect their children and direct them to more appropriate readings such as “La hate que tu tu” by an almost unknown author.

Presumably the next step will be Jane Austen for glorifying a privileged white lifestyle or Charles Dickens for not being more empathetic to Oliver Twist’s oppressed criminal classes.

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