South African leaders are in a slow about-face with regards to charging Zuma, his friends and family, with inciting the July 12th insurrection, just like everyone from Mueller to Biden was reluctant to hand-cuff Trump and family and probably for the same reason: it’d just make things worse.
At the same time South Africans are coming down hard on social media, something unthinkable at the moment in America.
Last weekend as the violence ended in South Africa a number of reports suggested there were a dozen or so “high profile” instigators who were soon to be arrested. The current president implied these included the former president, Jacob Zuma, and his family. Zuma’s arrest last week was what triggered the violence.
The police said they would name these names by yesterday. They didn’t.
The highest profile person currently charged is a well-known radio personality from KwaZulu Natal. Except for decades of age difference there is a reasonable comparison to be made between Ngizwe Mchunu and Rush Limbaugh.
Mchunu – whose defiance against the establishment includes working attire made of the skins of rare animals – is a right-wing Zulu supporter of Zuma. He was charged with circulating videos encouraging violence and of demanding at a large protest in Durban, “Release Zuma from prison or all hell will break loose!”
Like Limbaugh was, Mchunu is incendiary, charismatic and very well known. But he is hardly a member of Zuma’s family or inner circle.
The few others named among the 3,407 arrests are even less prominent. (Under South African law arrested persons can be held anonymously. Their names are not made public until a charge is actually levied against them.)
It seems clear to me that the current president, Cyril Ramaphosa and team, are worried that the “high profile” instigators if charged would start the violence all over, again.
Such is at least one of the implied reasons that our Justice Department wouldn’t indict a sitting president, and it’s certainly the reason Trump himself has yet to be named in any criminal indictment.
As we well understand from the likes of Kevin McCarthy, elected leaders often reveal their true morality at the time of a crisis but manage to drift in the opposite direction afterwards with the political winds. If those breezes help to put out the flames, I suppose there’s some sense to this.
Regardless that our two countries’ leaders seem to tack similarly with regards to former corrupt officials who still retain large public support, South Africa is clearly not following America’s reluctance to reign in social media.
According to Quartz Africa the South African police minister has confirmed that the government is “monitoring all social media platforms and we are tracking those who are sharing false information and calling for civil disobedience” with a view to prosecuting them under a relatively new cybersecurity law.
The minister made this announcement just as Zuma’s arrest was ordered so how effective it was for this round of protests seems problematic.
There is no reluctance, though, as in America that such pressure violates free speech.
In an apparent nod to South African authorities, Facebook told Quartz, “We believe in giving people a voice, but we also want everyone using Facebook to feel safe… We will continue to remove any content that violates these policies, and strongly encourage people to report content which they think goes against these rules.”
Is there anyone in the 21st century who doesn’t believe that social media accelerates violence irrespective of its morality?
It’s a sharp turn from holding those responsible for violence to clamping down on the instruments they may have used, but if you want to inhibit violence it may be the best way.