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Criminology expert Simon Howell weighs in on July 2021 unrest

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By Aneeqa du Plessis

The report on the July 2021 civil unrest, released by the Presidency earlier this week, painted an incriminating picture of the state’s incapacity to safeguard the nation and its citizens.

Speaking on VOC’s Breakfast Show on Wednesday, Research associate at UCT’s Centre of Criminology, Dr Simon Howell explained the report emphasized, among other things, how the eight days of civil unrest highlighted severe shortcomings of national security in the country.

“The report is advantageous as it deals with the key issues that led to the violence that occurred.”

Howell further described the failures that society has had to bear the brunt of.

“It is important to note the weaknesses of state institutions but also the weakness of South African society in terms of jobs, poverty and social issues that continue to undermine many communities across the country,” explained Howell.

On whether the brief incarceration of former president, Jacob Zuma ignited the chaos, Howell stated it had played a supporting role beside the destitution of people.

“The Zuma issue certainly did play a significant role in the instability but if citizens were granted their basic human rights, we would have seen less will to commit such large scale criminality by several people,” stated Howell.

On the issue of accountability, Howell described the task of pinning the blame on fingered instigators as a perilous task by the state. However, if consequences are not faced it can lead to even more civil unrest.

“It should be noted that the justice system is far more than the police or the courts when in fact there are several spheres that have to be taken into account which undermine the justice system as a whole and that is what the president needs to focus on,” clarified Howell.

Furthermore, with the much anticipated State of the Nation Address (SONA) set to take place on Thursday evening, Howell said all citizens can do, is be hopeful that the speech comes into fruition rather than remain lip service as seen in the past.

“There’s very little attention paid to the processes and the means by which justice works in the country and we can only hope that President Ramaphosa approaches these issues at a more holistic level so that we may uncover the root cause of corruption and injustice and ensure that the manners in which perpetrators are dealt with in a court is effective and consistent,” added Howell.


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