Smmes unrest riots looting police Sanlam Centre Pinetown

Pinecrest Centre in Pinetown after looters emptied the supermarkets and other shops in the centre last week. Photograph: Supplied

SAHRC urges victims of looting and unrest to testify

The SAHRC has called for victims of the July looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng to participate in its national hearing.

Smmes unrest riots looting police Sanlam Centre Pinetown

Pinecrest Centre in Pinetown after looters emptied the supermarkets and other shops in the centre last week. Photograph: Supplied

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has called on people to come forward to testify during its national investigative hearing into the July 2021 unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng after it extended the deadline for submissions to Friday 26 November. 

The SAHRC has so far heard testimonies of survivors, community members,  industry players in commerce and the private security sector, since it commenced on 15 November. 

Following an application by evidence leaders, the panel granted a ruling for an inspection in loco in Pietermaritzburg, Phoenix and surrounding areas, which took place on Friday 19 November.

“The Hearing has received positive reception from all quarters of the country and from many stakeholders, especially the public,” the SAHRC said in a statement on Thursday.

“Without detracting from the positive welcome the hearing has garnered in light of the issues at the centre of the investigation, the commission notes that some have raised concerns on social media and, in particular, there has been an opinion piece in the Independent Newspapers’ opinion column, “Jaundiced Eye”,” the SAHRC said.

The SAHRC said that the hearing was a matter of national concern regarding various rights, including the right to security, the right to be free from all forms of violence, the right to possessions and the right to life. 

“Our Constitution is founded on the principle of accountability.  The commission’s mandate is to monitor and assess the observance of human rights. Ultimately, it falls on the commission in terms of the Constitution of the Republic to investigate and report on issues where human rights have been violated and to take steps to secure appropriate redress,” the SAHRC said.

The SAHRC said it had called for submissions from all sectors of society and would continue to receive submissions beyond  Friday, 3 December 2021, when it is expected that the in person hearings will end. 

“All parties and stakeholders will be afforded every opportunity to be heard in a fair and unbiased fashion and any insinuation to the contrary is without substance,” the SAHRC said.

“While expressing appreciation for those who have come forward and assisted it with evidence, the commission continues to request persons wishing to make their submissions do so before the hearing panel either in person or by way of written submissions, rather than on social media, or by way of commentary that seeks to bring the process and work of the commission into question,” the SAHRC said.

KZN and Gauteng premiers to testify before SAHRC panel

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the National Commissioner of the SAPS, General Khehla Sitole have already testified at the hearing. The premiers of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are expected to testify on Friday 26 November 2021.

“While the Commission appreciates the assistance of the above-mentioned state officials, it notes that there have been non-responses from a number of other state officials. Consequently, the Commission has issued subpoenas calling on them to appear,” the SAHRC said.  “Organs of state, including state officials, are under a specific constitutional and statutory duty to cooperate with and assist the commission in the carrying out of its Constitutional mandate, to ensure its independence and effectiveness,” the SAHRC said.

The SAHRC said it had also decided to open the window for submissions until Friday, 26 November 2021 at 17:00 to give the opportunity, especially to victims of the looting, to come forward and provide submissions.