A creeping dictatorship: Threats to DA and ANC dissenters a sign of ‘authoritarian state’

Threats to DA leader Mmusi Maimane and dissenting ANC leaders are an early indication of South Africa becoming an authoritarian state, the Institute for Security Studies has warned.

Jacob Zuma

Maimane’s chief of staff, Geordin Hill-Lewis, confirmed that several serious threats had been made against Maimane, which prompted him to wear a bulletproof vest at anti-Zuma marches in Johannesburg on Friday.

“We received a number of threats in the days preceding the march. There were the publicly made threats from the ANC Youth League, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association and various others, and then there were some threats that we received directly against Mr Maimane, obviously all anonymous,” Hill-Lewis said, adding that two men were detained by private security shortly after Maimane arrived

“On the day of the march itself, we obviously had security in and around the march with their eyes peeled. There was one person detained with a number of knives.

“Another was posing as a security guard trying to get close to Mr Maimane, but was fortunately discovered and detained before he could get any closer.”

The impersonator was questioned and released; the man armed with knives was arrested.

The head of the governance, crime and justice division of the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham, said yesterday that threats against Maimane and ANC insiders were a sign that the ANC was losing its arguments with opposition parties and even with anti-Zuma factions within the governing party.

Maimane’s chief of staff, Geordin Hill-Lewis, confirmed that several serious threats had been made against Maimane, which prompted him to wear a bulletproof vest at anti-Zuma marches in Johannesburg on Friday.

“We received a number of threats in the days preceding the march. There were the publicly made threats from the ANC Youth League, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association and various others, and then there were some threats that we received directly against Mr Maimane, obviously all anonymous,” Hill-Lewis said, adding that two men were detained by private security shortly after Maimane arrived.

“On the day of the march itself, we obviously had security in and around the march with their eyes peeled. There was one person detained with a number of knives.

“Another was posing as a security guard trying to get close to Mr Maimane, but was fortunately discovered and detained before he could get any closer.”

The impersonator was questioned and released; the man armed with knives was arrested.

The head of the governance, crime and justice division of the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham, said yesterday that threats against Maimane and ANC insiders were a sign that the ANC was losing its arguments with opposition parties and even with anti-Zuma factions within the governing party.

Newham said many touting “radical economic transformation” rhetoric could not explain how they were actually going to improve the lives of South Africans, most of whom were becoming “increasingly aware that the existing political system and the rule of Jacob Zuma has been devastating to their futures and prosperity”.

“This is how dictatorships start moving because you have nothing to offer people other than empty slogans.

“The next step is to use violence and intimidation. So if you look at how political systems change to populist authoritarianism or dictatorships, it starts with violence. It starts when you can’t win the argument, when you start using your political power to intimidate and threaten people to either stop them from challenging you or try to coerce them.”

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Yesterday Gauteng police spokesman Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said he did not know of any arrests related to the march in Johannesburg.

Maimane’s take on his bulletproof vest was pragmatic: “I am the father of two kids, a husband. It would be irresponsible of me, knowing that people have threatened my life, not to take all the precautions I can.”

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