DURBAN - THE jailing of former president Jacob Zuma and the subsequent civil unrest coupled with deaths and massive looting will probably go down as one of the key political events in 2021 in the country.
The unrest left a trail of destruction which saw more than 350 deaths and billions of rand of losses to the economy.
More than 30 deaths were recorded in Phoenix, which fuelled racial tensions between members of the community. Zuma was the first former president to be jailed in the country after refusing to testify at the Zondo Commission, established to probe allegations of state capture. This was after he failed to obey summons issued to him to appear at the Zondo Commission.
Zuma finally handed himself over to the Estcourt Correctional facility in July after the Constitutional Court sentenced him to 15 months for contempt of court.
Signs of his arrest began in March when he exited the commission without Justice Raymond Zondo’s approval. He then attacked the judiciary, saying it was treating him unfairly and vowed not to return to the commission, asking Justice Zondo to recuse himself, which the chairperson of the inquiry turned down.
The year also saw a number of Zuma’s court appearances over the long-standing arms deal case.
Another noticeable political development was the roll-out of vaccines on a massive scale in the country. It became a political issue after the governing party was criticised for the slow pace of ordering vaccines while the numbers of infections and deaths were rising rapidly.
Also early in the year, KZN lost its Transport and Safety MEC Bheki Ntuli to Covid-19-related complications. He was succeeded in February by former social development MEC and former provincial legislature deputy speaker, Dr Meshack Radebe.
While the country was still battling rising cases of Covid-19 with escalating lockdowns, the government also had to hold local government elections on November 1, initially scheduled for October. The problem which gripped all political parties was whether it would be possible to hold elections under lockdown regulations which limited gatherings to 250 people inside a closed venue and 500 in an open field.
The matter was decided in the Constitutional Court, which dismissed former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke’s recommendation that elections be held in February next year. The Concourt ruled the local government elections must be held on November 1.
This announcement was a lifeline to the ANC which had failed to register its councillor candidates before the previous deadline. The election date itself was not without drama, with various candidates killed in the run-up to the day.
The election result would also go down as a political milestone after the loss suffered by the ANC, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, where for the first time it failed to get enough of a majority in eThekwini and many other municipalities.