In a landmark ruling, the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court imposed a 12-year jail term on Mdumiseni Khetha Zuma. The sentence was for his role in sparking the tumultuous July 2021 unrest that ravaged KwaZulu-Natal.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) disclosed that Zuma, aged 36, violated Sections 17 and 18 of the Riotous Assemblies Act. His actions included inciting people to gather and commit acts of public violence.
Zuma’s involvement was traced back to an incendiary video linked to the Brookside Mall, disseminated via WhatsApp. The NPA confirmed that this video was central to the looting and chaos that engulfed various parts of the country, particularly KwaZulu-Natal.
The aftermath of Zuma’s incitement resulted in the destructive looting and arson at the Brookside Mall situated in Pietermaritzburg.
During the trial, Senior State Advocate Yuri Gangai presented compelling evidence. This included video footage, audio recordings, and the testimony of a mall security guard.
Gangai bolstered the case with testimony from two experts who provided translated versions of the audio clips. Additionally, in aggravation of sentence, the mall manager testified regarding the dire consequences of the destruction.
According to the manager’s testimony, the estimated cost of the looting and subsequent fire damage totaled around R500 million. The mall was a vital hub servicing five distinct communities and approximately 5,000 individuals who collected their SASSA grants there.
The NPA emphasized the profound impact on these communities, all adversely affected by the mall’s destruction.
Zuma’s sentencing was detailed by the court: 10 years of imprisonment for count one, with two years suspended for five years, provided he avoids similar offences during the suspension period. Additionally, a six-year sentence was given, with two years running concurrently with count one.
This cumulative judgment equated to an effective 12 years of direct imprisonment, as clarified by the NPA.
While the NPA in KwaZulu-Natal has concluded numerous cases related to the July 2021 unrest, Zuma’s conviction marked the first instance of an individual being found guilty and subsequently sentenced for inciting the unrest.
Expressing hopes of deterring potential offenders, the NPA commended the collaboration between the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) KZN and the prosecution.
This milestone ruling serves as a testament to South Africa’s commitment to upholding justice and accountability in the face of social unrest and criminal incitement.