In a recent ruling by the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court, Mdumiseni Zuma, aged 36, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in instigating the July 2021 civil unrest in South Africa. This unrest ensued following the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, though Mdumiseni Zuma holds no relation to him.
The sentencing marks a significant development, as Mdumiseni Zuma is the first among over 60 alleged instigators to be convicted and sentenced for the violence that primarily affected KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng. This period of unrest led to the deaths of more than 350 people and caused substantial economic damage, including an estimated R50 billion in infrastructure destruction and the loss of over 150,000 jobs.
Mdumiseni Zuma was apprehended in August 2021 after police investigations revealed a video he recorded and shared on his WhatsApp status. In the video, he called for looting and burning of the Brookside Mall in Pietermaritzburg. Despite his claim that the video was made as a “drunk prank,” the court dismissed this explanation during his conviction in September.
Magistrate Morné Cannon, during the sentencing, emphasized the gravity of Zuma’s actions. Although there was no direct evidence of Zuma participating in the looting and arson, the magistrate stated that Zuma must be sentenced as if he personally set fire to the mall. Cannon highlighted the devastating consequences of Zuma’s actions, including significant financial losses for the Brookside Mall, which amounted to half a billion rand.
The sentence, according to Magistrate Cannon, is meant to serve the public interest and deter similar criminal conduct in the future.
Additionally, at least 65 other alleged instigators are scheduled for their initial appearances in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban this coming January. The case was transferred from the Durban Regional Court after additional charges of terrorism and sedition were added.
In a related development, former radio personality Ngizwe Mchunu was acquitted of incitement charges linked to the same unrest, maintaining his innocence throughout the trial.