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Mall unrest accused in court: ‘Unrest ruined countless lives’

By Lethiwe Makhanya

Impact of Brookside Mall’s destruction in 2021 laid bare as convicted instigator appears in court.

Convicted Brookside Mall unrest instigator Mdumiseni Zuma (36) appeared in Pietermaritzburg Magistrate's Court yesterday on charges relating to the 2021 July unrest. Photo: NQUBEKO MBHELE
Convicted Brookside Mall unrest instigator Mdumiseni Zuma (36) appeared in Pietermaritzburg Magistrate's Court yesterday on charges relating to the 2021 July unrest. Photo: NQUBEKO MBHELE

The destruction of Brookside Mall during the July 2021 unrest had a devastating impact on people who relied on their jobs at the shopping centre to support their families, according to property manager Duncan Momplé.

He was testifying for the state during the sentencing proceedings of Mdumiseni Zuma (36) at the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

In his evidence, Momplé said he received notification on Sunday, July 11, 2021, of a video on social media of someone inciting public violence at the mall.

ALSO READ | Brookside Mall unrest instigator found guilty

He then called the mall’s head office, which instructed him not to open the mall the following day.

“Later that day, the mall was looted and destroyed,” testified Momplé, saying the destruction and losses had cost tenants R190 million, with Checkers Hyper suffering losses of R150 million.

“The psychological damage and trauma was intensive. Many employees had to be relocated to other stores much further away. Others unfortunately lost their jobs. I was moved to Durban to work with other managers, but I eventually resigned,” he told the court.

The destruction of the Brookside Mall also impacted around 5 000 social grant recipients who used the facility to access their funds. He said the South African Post Office was in the process of opening a branch at the mall and did not do so at the time due to the violence and arson.

Another witness, Mohammed Khan, who was providing security services at the mall, told the court that at the time, he had about 24 security personnel working for him but had to retrench 22 of his staff because there was no site after the mall was looted and destroyed.

“We had to wait for the mall to be rebuilt again and we only went back to provide our services at the mall in August 2022,” said Khan.

ALSO READ | July unrest: Brookside Mall instigator’s case postponed

Earlier in the day, Faral Ally submitted a correctional service supervision report advising that Zuma be given a prison sentence as he was not eligible for correctional supervision.

The case he is facing is serious. It affected a lot of people and many of them lost their jobs. In my opinion, he must be sentenced to imprisonment with no correctional service supervision.

He added that during the interview with correctional services, Zuma did not show remorse and offer any apology for his actions.

Social development probation officer Zinhle Mqadi submitted an initial report recommending that Zuma must be sentenced in terms of Section 2761(i) to correctional supervision as opposed to imprisonment.

However, during cross examination by the state prosecutor, Mqadi changed tune and recommended a direct term of imprisonment for Zuma.

“I am withdrawing that the accused can be sentenced under correctional service supervision because what he did is a life-threatening offence. I agree that my recommendation was wrong,” Mqadi testified.

Originally from Nkandla, Mdumiseni Zuma was convicted in September for inciting public violence related to the incidents of looting and arson that occurred in Pietermaritzburg in July 2021, in particular the burning of Brookside Mall.

ALSO READ | Case against Brookside Mall unrest instigator adjourned to November

Although he was acquitted on the charge of incitement to commit arson, his conviction for incitement to cause public violence was the state’s first successful prosecution against those implicated in the violence that engulfed the country two years ago after the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma.

The matter continues on Thursday.