Publish the riot report at the Louis Vuitton store where the ANC can see it

By Howard Feldman, Head of Marketing & People at Synthesis

South Africans should consider reframing the July 2021 riots. Instead of looking at the situation as a massive failure of the ANC, SA intelligence and the security forces, there is a completely alternative approach.

I submit that the July riots from the perspective of the ANC was a massive success. It was in fact one of their first events where they mobilised the nation, coordinated between different state entities, and managed to inject billions of rands into the economy with the help of insurance companies. It was in essence a magnificent example of a public-private partnership. If one could ignore the fact that 300 people lost their lives along the way, it could even be considered a triumph.

It turns out that the July riots had nothing to do with South Africans and everything to do with South African politicians. The events were a direct result of the infighting within the ANC and the hollowing out of State entities responsible for the safety of the country. It was not a spontaneous demonstration of frustration. What follows, is that the 300 people who died in July 2021, did so at the hands of the ANC.

Because they remain unable to get their act together.

At face value, the report into the July insurrection is damming. Led by Professor Sandy Africa, the panel found that the ANC’s internal contradictions negatively impacted governance matters.

To quote from the report: “Perhaps the most significant input made, which we heard several times, was that what appears to be factional battles in the ANC have become a serious source of instability in the country. This is a matter of great concern and the reasons for this need to be identified sooner rather than later.”

Aside from the division within the ANC that led to the violence, the report also found that there were failures almost every step along the way.  The police were not only taken by surprise, but were also inadequately equipped for the task. There was furthermore a significant intelligence failure as well as a blurring of lines between executive authorities and security services.

One must wonder how the report was received by the ANC. Was there any discomfort and even a moment of real introspection and acceptance of responsibility?  Were the names of the lost 300 at any time read out loud and was there a moment of silence passed in respect of the dead? Did anyone shift nervously in their seats? Was there someone who cleared their throat uncomfortably and was eye contact avoided? Did anyone within the ANC tentatively at first, but then confidently after, raise their hand and voice their shame? Or did the meeting (assuming there even was one), move swiftly on to how to sanitise the findings and consider options and diversions.

The report doesn’t mince its words. It in fact contains soundbites that should be printed at the entrance to anywhere frequented by members of the party: Outside Luthuli House and the Louis Vuitton store.

It should be required to be learned by heart and recited before every ANC meeting:  “For their part, the security services are uncertain about how to effectively address this convergence of violent criminal conduct with mainstream politics, given the correct posture taken by the country to ensure that political activity stays free of state security interference.” 

Three hundred dead South Africans and billions of rands in destroyed business is what you get when violent criminal conduct converges with mainstream politics.

A more cynical person might suggest that this might even have been one of the first “successful” events and programmes carried out by the ruling party … if success can be defined by the loss of billions of rands and hundreds of South Africans. If that isn’t the view, then now would be a good time for the ANC to take responsibility, to assure the country that it will not shirk its responsibility and that it will do its darndest to sort its conflict out before more South Africans get hurt.