KwaZulu-Natal gets back to work as fears of second shutdown fail to materialise

Public transport has begun running again and residents of Durban and other KwaZulu-Natal towns are returning to work, despite an attempt over the weekend by supporters of former president Jacob Zuma to engineer a second shutdown on Monday morning.

Tensions are still high in some areas — including Hammarsdale, where arson attacks and looting took place on Sunday — and security forces are on high alert over a simultaneous  attempt to stage a major protest at the Estcourt Correctional Centre where Zuma is serving his 15-month sentence for contempt of court.

However, the city’s taxi industry is back on the road after a week of violence and destruction around Durban, which saw the main commercial and warehousing nodes to the north, west and south being torched in what is now believed to have been a co-ordinated campaign by Zuma’s backers to render South Africa ungovernable.

On Saturday, influential taxi boss Mandla Gcaba went on radio and TV to deny claims carried in a voice note circulated by Zuma supporters over the weekend that his family taxis would be providing free transport to take protesters to Estcourt to force the authorities to release Zuma. 

Gcaba is Zuma’s cousin.

The voice note, which was distributed widely over the weekend and caused panic among residents fearing a second flare-up of violence and looting, also called on people to stay away from work on Monday and to shut the province down in support of Zuma.

The clarification by Gcaba, which came at the request of the South African Police Service (SAPS), appears to have had the desired effect, with taxis running again on Monday morning.

A number of suburban shopping malls that were looted early last week were cleaned up by volunteers over the weekend and were also in the process of reopening, albeit tentatively.  

Elsewhere, clean-up operations continued, while the military and the SAPS maintained a high-profile presence on key transport routes and in areas such as Phoenix, where racial tensions flared up last week and 20 people were killed.

Police and army units cordoned off the area around the Pietermaritzburg high court, where Zuma’s corruption trial, stemming from a 1990s arms deal, is sitting, in anticipation of potential attacks on the precinct.

Zuma’s legal team wants the hearing — which will deal with their application to have prosecutor BIlly Downer SC removed from the case — to be postponed until the former head of state can appear in person. 

The Monday hearing is being conducted virtually.

Correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo confirmed that the department was aware of the threat to the prison and would “continuously monitor the situation.””

”The facility is calm and operating as usual,” Nxumalo said.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

War on diamonds: Toil and triumph on the rich barren...

“I’m willing to take a bullet” says Northern Cape natives who claim the land, and its diamonds, belong to them.

Shell v Wild Coast: Science, research and erring on the...

Court applicants have argued that the company should be required to conduct an environmental impact assessment, based on the best available science, which has advanced considerably since Shell’s permit to conduct seismic surveys was granted

How spies shape South Africa’s political path

From Mbeki to Zuma to Ramaphosa, the facts and fictions of the intelligence networks have shadowed political players and settled power struggles

I’m just a lawyer going to court, says attorney on...

The Mthatha attorney is angered by a tweet alleging he sways the high court and the Judicial Services Commission

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…