/ 13 July 2023

St Jacob, patron of truck burners

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Burning issue: The acts of economic sabotage this week occurred exactly two years after the June 2021 riots, and there are other echoes.


Another day, another truck burning.

This time, it’s on the N2 between Ermelo and Piet Retief, leaving the road closed for the day while the authorities clean up the mess.

Another act of economic sabotage to commemorate two years since KwaZulu-Natal and part of Gauteng went up in flames in response to the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma.

Then, the destruction and looting kicked off with the burning of trucks — first on the N2 near Richards Bay, the next day at Mooi River on the N3 — and a blockade of the freeways in and out of KwaZulu-Natal by supporters of the former head of state.

Fortunately, the recent round of truck attacks that started on the weekend at Van Reenen’s Pass haven’t been accompanied by any kind of mass mobilisation, looting or blockades.

Hopefully it will stay that way.

The president is talking about sabotage; the police minister is mumbling about 12 suspects, just like he did in 2021, and the trucking companies are crying blue murder at the inability of the state to protect the industry on the roads.

By way of response, the army has finally been deployed at Mooi River — five days after the first burning at Van Reenen’s Pass — taking nearly as long as they did in 2021 to get boots on the ground to stop the looting.

Whatever the reasons for the attacks this week, they are the latest in a series of grim reminders that little appears to have been done by South Africa’s intelligence services to address the weaknesses that saw them unable — and unwilling — to head off the attempted insurrection of 2021.

Several thousand trucks have been burned on the roads since the July 2021 riots, 17 councillors have been assassinated in KwaZulu-Natal alone in the past 10 months and those behind the mayhem two years ago are still happily going about their business, with no apparent response from the security services.

The state’s agencies haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory when it comes to bringing those who killed, looted and burned — and those who incited them to do so — to justice.

A suspended sentence for the Woolies looter and 18 months of theatrics in court with Ngizwe Mchunu aren’t exactly the result that the millions of South Africans, whose lives were turned upside down, have been looking for.

Those that lead us have tried to sneak past the second anniversary of the riots without anybody marking the date or noticing that very little — if anything — has been done to rebuild the intelligence services or to hold anybody to account. They were almost there, until the trucks started going up in flames. Again.

Instead of trying to forget the 2021 riots, President Cyril Ramaphosa should declare 9 July a public holiday in commemoration of the 354 people who lost their lives in the riots.

It should also serve as a reminder that those responsible for their deaths still walk among us.

Call it St Jacob’s Day, in honour of the Patron Saint of Truck Burners.

The former head of state was well enough to have done his anniversary­ing in Zimbabwe, at the African Voluntary Carbon Credits Market Forum meeting held at Victoria Falls.

A way more auspicious venue than the more humble lodgings we are told uBaba occupied at the Estcourt Correctional Centre this time two years ago, when he got sent to the slammer for refusing to finish his testimony at the Zondo commission on state capture.

Not a bad alibi either for the 2021 events, just in case.

The forum wants to establish a pan-African carbon registry that will trade on the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange, and invited Zuma in his capacity as a board member of the Belarusian African Foreign Trade Association, which has carbon credits from a Siberian forest.

Zuma looked the picture of health with the dummy cheque for eleventy seven billion carbon credits he handed over, all teeth and cheesy grin, not bad for a man who was released from jail because of terminal illness. uBaba appeared happy to be leaving the bunker at Nxamalala for something other than a court appearance.

The bag full of Belarusian kopeks for doing the speech and handover can’t have hurt either, even if they were payment from a nation being sanctioned for its support of Russia in the war in Ukraine.

Money is money — and pariah status is something uBaba is becoming increasingly familiar with.

Zuma knows that after helping the Guptas capture the state — and attempting to overthrow what was left of it — there is more chance of his head ending up on a Belarusian rouble or an Interpol wanted poster than on a South African bank note.

When times are hard, friends are few.