WhatsApp used to plan riots in South Africa — Report

The masterminds behind widespread looting, arson, and public violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng over the last few days used WhatsApp and Telegram to organise attacks on trucks, highways, and businesses.

This is according to senior ANC and intelligence sources who spoke to The Daily Maverick on the condition of anonymity.

The sources said the twelve ringleaders identified by security intelligence officials suspected of being behind the unrest used social media to set their carefully planned attacks into motion.

During the special ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held on Monday, which was focused on addressing the unrest, WhatsApp and Telegram messages which appear to show a coordinated effort to carry out the violent attacks, were discussed.

These messages are now being analysed by security intelligence officials who have set their sights on catching the instigators, the Daily Maverick reported.

Screenshots of the messages, which were posted on an “eThekweni Shutdown” WhatsApp group, have been shared on Facebook.

The first point of focus for the instigators was the torching of trucks and blocking major roads and highways around Durban, Pietermaritzburg, and various spots along the N3.

According to The Daily Maverick, this was organised by renegade MK groups who were active in the truck transport sector and have campaigned against foreign truck drivers for some time.

These groups have been blamed for arson attacks on trucks driven by foreigners over the past three years.

Following the truck attacks, the masterminds veered their attention to institutions regarded to be controlled by “white monopoly capital”.

This buzzword first came to the fore in the Bell Pottinger disinformation campaign paid for by the Gupta family to paint them as victims of systemic racism.

On the WhatsApp group, members called for attacks on, among others, Shoprite, Pick ‘n Pay, Woolworths, several banks, and fuel stations.

Below are some of the messages shared on the group.

Ethekwini Shutdown members calling for the N2 and N3 to be closed and attacks to be carried out on various businesses.

News24 has reported that one of the twelve suspected ringleaders being investigated is the controversial former head of the State Security Agency’s (SSA) rogue special operations unit, Thulani Dlomo.

Dlomo is a staunch Zuma ally and is alleged to be at the centre of the plans to cause widespread unrest. In January, the Zondo Commission of Inquiry heard that Dlomo’s unit effectively acted as the former president’s private militia.

Another prominent figure that has been fingered as an instigator in the violence is Zuma’s daughter Duduzile Zuma-Sambundla.

An unverified Twitter account under Zuma-Sambundla’s name has been tweeting calls for protest and support of violent riots over the past week. She has not distanced herself from the tweets.

However, it’s not yet clear if she forms part of the twelve masterminds who are being investigated.

Duduzile Zuma-Sambundla
Duduzile Zuma-Sambundla

Should the instigators or proponents of violence be tracked down and found guilty, new laws which recently came into effect in South Africa could very well mean they will be facing jail time, even if they did not partake in the acts themselves.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently signed the Cybercrimes Act into law, which criminalises sending certain harmful messages on social media in South Africa.

One of the three types of harmful messages defined by the Act is the incitement of damage to property or violence.

A message which incites damage to property or violence applies to any person who discloses, through an electronic communications service, a data message to a person, group of persons or the general public to incite the causing of any damage to property belonging to or violence against a person or a group of persons.

The Cybercrimes Act defines “violence” as bodily harm and “damage to property” as damage to any corporeal or incorporeal property.

Punishment if found guilty can include up to three years imprisonment and a fine.

Now read: Criminal charges against Julius Malema and Zuma’s children

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WhatsApp used to plan riots in South Africa — Report