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S/Africa’s rights commission probes July unrest

South Africa’s Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has set up a body, the National Investigative Hearing, to probe the circumstances that led to civil unrest in July that left over 300 people dead and nearly US$2 billion worth of property damages, the SAHRC announced on Tuesday.The SAHRC said Commissioner André Gaum would chair the hearing, supported by Commissioner Chris Nissen as his deputy and Commissioner Philile Ntuli as the chief panellist. 

External experts would be co-opted or appointed by the panel if required, the commission said.

Three-weeks of rioting broke out in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng provinces following the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma for 15 months on a contempt of court charge after he defied orders to appear before a Commission of Inquiry into State Capture that is investigating high-level corruption in the country.

“The commission was also concerned that they are reports that as many communities took to the streets to protect their neighbourhoods and businesses, there were allegations that surfaced of excessive use of force, racial profiling, assaults, arson, and killings in some places,” it said in a statement.

The SAHRC said it would “inquire into, make findings, report on, and make recommendations and/or directives” concerning the causes of the July unrest, with particular focus on Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

In addition, the causes of the alleged racially motivated attacks and killings following the unrest would also be investigated during the hearings, the commission said.

Another area to be looked into would be the causes of the apparent lapses in law enforcement by state security agencies, particularly the South African Police Services, and the role of private security companies in the unrest, it added.

The social, economic, spatial and political factors prevalent in the various affected areas and the extent to which these played a role in the unrest would also be probed, the SAHRC said.

Published on 03.01.2023

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