Dr Anthony Turton – Zuma-inspired 2021 Looter’s War mere ‘taster’ of MK’s plans

Dr Anthony Turton, a 12th generation South African polymath with experience inside SA’s Security Forces, Academia, Water and business, shares lessons from the July 2021 Looter’s War in KZN. The way he sees it, that may have been a mere curtain raiser for what is planned by Jacob Zuma and his MK party. Turton reckons the proposed ANC/DA/IFP government of national unity will have its hands full dealing with what’s coming – but says Zulu Royalty and the private sector, which played a decisive role in quelling the July 2021 unrest, could be a new government’s most powerful ally. He spoke to BizNews editor Alec Hogg.

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Highlights from the interview

In a detailed interview with Alec Hogg, Dr. Anthony Turton provides a comprehensive analysis of the government’s response to the unrest. Turton highlights the government’s lack of effective control, noting that power had effectively shifted to private armed militias and security companies. He emphasizes the unpreparedness of the state security agencies, contrasting their inefficacy with the quick, organized responses of private militias and community forces.

Turton discusses the significant role of private security companies and mentions the emergence of politically aligned militias, particularly within the Islamic movement. He points out the logistical failures of the state during the unrest, such as inadequate vehicle equipment, poor planning, and insufficient provision of essential supplies for frontline troops. These shortcomings underscore the limitations of the state’s military capacity.

A crucial aspect of Turton’s analysis is the delicate balance of power between the state and these armed groups. He sees potential in forming alliances between the government and militias to maintain order, stressing the importance of preventing these militias from becoming vigilantes. The taxi industry also emerged as an unexpected stabilizing force during the unrest, playing a significant role in maintaining order.

Turton warns of the impending fiscal cliff, which poses a severe threat to the economy, businesses, and state employees. He argues that averting this crisis is paramount and urges the government to develop constructive policies. In conclusion, Turton envisions a gradual return to stability if the government can successfully manage these alliances and address the fiscal challenges ahead.

Edited transcript from the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

00:00:06:05 – 00:00:40:14
Alec Hogg
Run April 21st. Dr. Anthony Turton, then with the University of Free State, wrote a very well-read think piece on Business Day where he took his observations in the African bush and applied them to politics, particularly the way that the animals feed and kill. Dr. Turton, tell us what you expect from the hyenas in Jacob Zuma’s MK party in the next little while.

00:00:44:13 – 00:01:09:19
Alec Hogg
As an African, you had the privilege of going into the bush. Just absolutely loved it. It’s a way of de-stressing and reminding yourself that you are a pretty small part of the big boss’s creation. But I love the way you use your observations of the kill and the hierarchy of animals and apply that to the political situation.

00:01:09:21 – 00:01:21:22
Alec Hogg
For those who haven’t read the piece that you wrote for us, do you want to just take us through it very briefly? How you saw that and the analogy that you used with the ANC?

00:01:22:00 – 00:01:44:10
Dr. Anthony Turton
It’s good to be on stage with you. The listeners should be with you. I had the privilege of writing this as a 12th generation African, and my father was a big game hunter, so I spent a lot of time in the bush as a child. Subsequently, in the Special Operations Unit, taking the kids out, it’s called that.

00:01:44:12 – 00:02:06:02
Dr. Anthony Turton
I’m a firm believer that what humans do, you reap because you make sure that you are purchasing it. I happen to be a trained observer and technician, and I’ve observed that in the chaos of a kill in the African bush, there’s a logical hierarchy, a pecking order.

00:02:06:04 – 00:02:31:11
Dr. Anthony Turton
As brutal as it is, if you understand that logic, you can predict. This business of prediction comes from being an intelligence officer. My role was to observe things and make reasonably accurate predictions to advise decision-makers about what was coming. Anyway, I noticed that a kill has a definite hierarchy.

00:02:31:13 – 00:02:57:07
Dr. Anthony Turton
The highest hierarchy is the apex predator. It could be a lion, it could be a cheetah. But first, let me tell you very rapidly about the vultures that come and talk about the kill. Then, of course, you get your hyenas. Somebody’s got to talk about the jackals and all the scavengers. And then you get the maggots that come in to clean up the final bits.

00:02:57:09 – 00:03:22:20
Dr. Anthony Turton
This struck me as a very strong analogy for the South African economy because, post-liberation, the South African economy has really been depressed. There’s been very little value added. There has been a lot of consumption and a lot of squabbling among the lions, jackals, hyenas, and vultures to see what they could get out of the carcass.

00:03:22:22 – 00:03:47:23
Dr. Anthony Turton
And, of course, that carcass is now giving way to the maggots because maggots take what hyenas and jackals are unable to take. So that’s where we are today. Which party is which animal is another discussion. But the point of departure is that I think we are seeing the South African economy being cannibalized.

00:03:48:01 – 00:04:08:08
Dr. Anthony Turton
I don’t see any coherent policy documents coming forward to suggest that we need to grow the economy, create jobs, or attract capital back into the economy. It’s all about consumption. The politics is all about who gets access to the carcass and for how long they can feed.

00:04:08:14 – 00:04:19:02
Dr. Anthony Turton
No one is addressing what will happen when the carcass is so decimated and dried out that only the maggots can feed on it. That is the big strategic question that we need to apply our minds to.

00:04:19:04 – 00:04:46:22
Alec Hogg
And, of course, nobody pays too much attention to the people of the country. But as someone so beautifully put it in an interview with me once, we are cursed by our governors, those predators, and blessed by our people. Perhaps the people have spoken in this last election with a huge turnout. For many people, for those of us who’ve been watching it more closely, not so much. But now we’ve got a situation where there’s the MK party and the EFF, who initially were invited into a government of national unity.

00:04:46:22 – 00:05:14:02
Alec Hogg
If I listen carefully to what you say, and having read your piece already, it would have been a disaster if you have three types of predators fighting over the kill rather than somebody trying to, or an organization which governance should be, that is trying to create wealth and prosperity.

00:05:14:06 – 00:05:40:20
Dr. Anthony Turton
Yes. Let’s look carefully at what the recent election has told us. The first thing it has shown us is that there is no dominant policy and no dominant party in South Africa. In other words, South Africa is fragmented. It’s home to what has become an ecosystem of multiple parties. I don’t know how many, but certainly a lot of them are in this ecosystem.

Read more: Six reasons a GNU will not last five years in SA: Martin Van Staden

00:05:40:22 – 00:06:07:20
Dr. Anthony Turton
But two of those are the three that are reasonably dominant. However, none of them have a majority. So, the elections delivered what we kind of suspected beforehand. In this context, the constitutional democracy has worked. It delivered us an incredible outcome. However, now let’s look a little bit deeper. The first thing that has happened to the ruling party, the ANC, which has been the majority party since 1995, is that it is no longer in a driving position.

00:06:07:22 – 00:06:43:23
Dr. Anthony Turton
And of course, this is of great importance because we’ve seen the emergence of a brand new party, the MK party, which is nothing more than internal structures or at least part of the internal guts of the ANC, in fact, part of the armed wing of the ANC. We can drill down into what that means as well, because that has significant consequences. In which functioning democracy in the world do you have a political party with an armed wing that is protected, untouchable, and not accountable to anything?

00:06:44:01 – 00:07:07:18
Dr. Anthony Turton
So let’s park that aside. We can talk about the armed wing later. Let’s assume now that the armed wing has turned on its host and defected to the new party, the MK party. Or you can assume that some of the fighters, the freedom fighters, are still within the ANC, which means, effectively, that the ANC is at war with itself. It’s being cannibalized by its own people. That’s an interesting concept in its own right.

00:07:07:20 – 00:07:40:11
Dr. Anthony Turton
Then there’s another very interesting and taboo subject in South Africa that we’re not allowed to talk about, which is tribal allegiance. The whole idea of nationalism, particularly Zulu nationalism, which the ANC is very loath to talk about, is the elephant in the room. The MK party has a very strong foothold in KZN, the home of the Zulu people, and is headed by a well-known Zulu warlord who was used during the 1980s by the ANC to bring about peace between the armed factions of the IFP and the UDF.

00:08:08:08 – 00:08:40:06
Dr. Anthony Turton
So let’s call it what it is. Zuma emerged as a warlord capable of bashing heads together and bringing the ANC into the party because the ANC was heavily marginalized in KZN at that time. We can park that and discuss it later. Then, there’s the fact that the ANC, until recently, was in power but no longer in control. After the 2021 looters’ war, when I predicted it, the big unanswered question remains: the role of the State Security Agency (SSA). Did the SSA know about the looters’ war and do nothing about it?

00:09:04:01 – 00:09:38:15
Dr. Anthony Turton
If so, there are consequences because we have a multi-billion rand state agency that failed in its job. Is it being held accountable for not providing prior forewarning? The other option is that it was potentially a participant in the process. We then face another set of questions: to what extent is the leadership of the SSA sympathetic to the Zuma faction? This is a very interesting can of worms that we’re not talking about.

00:09:38:17 – 00:10:01:23
Dr. Anthony Turton
One of the former Zuma-aligned leaders within the SSA is the same person who leveled charges against a current president of the United States of America. Where does the SSA stand in this whole thing? Is it going to recognize a government of national unity, or is it a player in the background? Or will it just be a neutral bystander?

00:10:47:00 – 00:11:11:13
Dr. Anthony Turton
That’s an interesting question. And then, of course, you get to yet another interesting question, and that is the relationship between Zuma and his elites and the Russian intelligence service, the role they might have played, and the role they might play in the future. You know, what the consequences are, what the ramifications are in terms of state security and, of course, the economy.

00:11:11:14 – 00:11:34:10
Dr. Anthony Turton
So, in other words, what else gets to you? It’s a very complex issue that I would describe as an onion with many layers. As we scratch the surface of the onion, we come to the next layer, opening up another can of worms. So, at this point, we’re dealing with different issues.

00:11:34:12 – 00:11:58:16
Dr. Anthony Turton
One of which I believe needs some very sober reflection from some very smart people before they make decisions about the future of the South African economy because of all these ramifications. And for them, I say we cannot predict at this point how this is going to unfold.

00:11:58:18 – 00:12:20:05
Alec Hogg
Massive complexities that you have outlined there. I guess we could spend 30 minutes on each one of them and still not get to the end of it. But you are an academic as well. You will have some thoughts, perhaps, that have been applied to all of this. Clearly, it’s very easy to see the balance.

00:12:20:07 – 00:12:55:14
Alec Hogg
It’s easy to see Jacob Zuma as the wrecking ball who will just wreck the country in whatever way he wants to in a different context. But now that the ANC appears to have set it up and realizes that a government of national unity with the MK and the EFF is not likely to be happy, given that they are not looking to get together with the DA and the IFP, is that something that could last and indeed be a bulwark against the very obvious danger you’ve outlined?

00:12:55:17 – 00:13:19:18
Dr. Anthony Turton
Well, being an inherently optimistic person, I would certainly like to support that idea. In other words, a government of national unity served us very well in 1995. That set us up for a period of time. There was a transition in my professional life from National Intelligence Service to the South African Secret Service, of which I was a part.

00:13:19:19 – 00:13:54:07
Dr. Anthony Turton
So I had very close insight into how the union functioned from a national security perspective. So, yes, it’s a high hope that a government of national unity can hold itself together and find some kind of common ideological platform, which could be achievable. Nonetheless, let’s assume that does happen and that there can be some agreement between these different parties on a critical issue, which I would say is the restoration of the rule of law.

Read more: NSN: Is Zuma and MK planning another insurrection with Russian support?

00:13:54:09 – 00:14:22:19
Dr. Anthony Turton
To me, that is the prime issue. If you can restore the rule of law, which implies respect for the Constitution, then you can act according to the Constitution and seek to restore the rule of law. The next logical thing that could come out of a government of national unity would be some sort of restoration of investor confidence, and therefore, we might start seeing the reversal of the current negative economic trends.

00:14:22:19 – 00:14:49:23
Dr. Anthony Turton
I think the government’s unity is certainly the best option for achieving that outcome. Assuming that happens, we could see a return of investor confidence, then we can start talking about job creation. But before we talk about job creation, we need to address the regulatory framework and its impact on investors. It’s one thing to say we will be stable and want you to come back, but another to ensure that the political environment supports that return.

00:15:10:14 – 00:15:42:20
Dr. Anthony Turton
So there’s enough political appetite to go that route, which is an open question. On the state security risk side, there’s a very important issue that might arise. With that configuration of power, you’re marginalizing actors who are incentivized to make the country ungovernable because that’s the only power they wield. Given that a government of national unity is inherently unstable, coalition governments are known to be inherently unstable unless there is a deep sense of national identity and political unity, which we currently lack in our segmented society.

00:16:20:03 – 00:16:49:08
Dr. Anthony Turton
So, if that’s the case, then what will the law and order prospects be to bring those parties to book if and when they break the law by making the country ungovernable? There needs to be strong political will to sustain law and order from this perspective.

00:16:49:10 – 00:17:17:00
Dr. Anthony Turton
Some interesting cases might challenge the validity of the Constitution. These activities will likely be based in analytical seats outside of parliamentary democratic processes. I can speak upon a metric, and then you deal with them through attention and supervision processes, respecting the Constitution, but they feel alienated by the Constitution.

00:17:17:01 – 00:17:58:01
Dr. Anthony Turton
They see the Constitution as the problem, as Zuma’s faction does. They want to do away with the Constitution because they see it as a hindrance. This could lead to a constitutional crisis. On one hand, we have commercial interests that support national unity and seek to gain whatever deals they can, like waterfront capital because we need that kind of capital. On the other hand, we have forces that will try to undermine the Constitution and replace it with something else, which supports land restructuring and other stories. So, this is the reality we have to deal with.

00:17:58:01 – 00:18:24:02
Dr. Anthony Turton
From an analytical perspective, we need to look at the various allegations of parties and assume they can balance each other. The critical ones now, I would say, are the finance department and national security, which fall under their control in different government departments. It’s clear that this is possibly the one that will either hold the coalition together or not.

00:18:24:04 – 00:18:57:08
Dr. Anthony Turton
And then, of course, if it’s chaos in the streets, that’s another matter. Health care, health, and infrastructure are the main issues we will confront. Finance is crucial. How are we going to deal with the fiscal cliff under these circumstances? What role will the fiscal approach play in either stabilizing or destabilizing the government of national unity?

00:18:57:10 – 00:19:19:19
Dr. Anthony Turton
This is the architecture that I’ve outlined. I think this framework is likely how things will unfold over the next few months.

00:19:19:21 – 00:19:35:17
Alec Hogg
Yes, so fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a rocky ride. But on the upside, we did have the 2021 riots, which were instigated as an attempt at anarchy and sedition. They were unsuccessful. If there had been support from the police or defense force, things might have been quelled even quicker.

00:20:00:21 – 00:20:26:18
Alec Hogg
It doesn’t appear that the middle class of South Africa will stand idly by. They didn’t in this instance, so who knows? It’s an interesting conundrum we face in South Africa. You said you see the glass half full rather than half empty. How long will it take for this kind of turbulence to sort itself out, and for international business to start feeling that equity capital can return to South Africa and get the economy growing?

00:20:42:00 – 00:21:05:09
Dr. Anthony Turton
I’ll answer the first question first and then the second question. So, the first question is, did you try to create a pre-2021 scenario? I think it was a critically important target for something. So, what could my perception of the latest one be? Basically, you told me not to react.

00:21:05:11 – 00:21:31:09
Dr. Anthony Turton
So, let’s unpack this. The first thing I saw was that the state was completely unprepared. In other words, the other agencies responsible for security, like the State Security Agency, did not see anything coming. That’s a significant question because when I put out my first post saying that I thought it was going to happen next week, I was ahead of the curve.

00:21:31:11 – 00:21:59:06
Dr. Anthony Turton
I’m truly one of the few. If I could predict it with my limited resources, why couldn’t they do it with a balanced regiment? This shows their capacity to forewarn simply does not exist. The second important thing that emerged was the sophisticated planning involved, such as sabotaging critical infrastructure. This made me believe it was a highly planned event and not a spontaneous uprising.

00:21:59:12 – 00:22:25:22
Dr. Anthony Turton
Subsequently, in doing professional work for the insurance industry, I found certain insurance payout implications. This was important as the unrest was spreading across the province. Another crucial factor was the deliberate attempts by what seemed to be a sophisticated organization to ignite racial tensions. The Zulu king played a critical role in calming these tensions, preventing further violence.

00:22:26:00 – 00:22:56:08
Dr. Anthony Turton
The third important factor was the emergence of armed militias. The police were either unable or unwilling to respond adequately. In many cases, they remained in their barracks, and in some cases, they ran out of ammunition. This was significant because the police did not make a difference; instead, armed militias played a crucial role.

00:22:56:11 – 00:23:19:11
Dr. Anthony Turton
There was the spontaneous emergence of community defense groups, such as in the funding area, where people organized themselves without any formal structure. Leadership emerged naturally, and these groups acted as deterrents. Private security companies also played a role, particularly in areas like the community which was an epicenter of the attacks.

00:23:19:11 – 00:23:42:17
Dr. Anthony Turton
Another significant development was the emergence of militias, particularly those related to the Muslim community. I witnessed them equipped with automatic weapons, acting as keepers of peace. These groups filled the gap left by the security forces’ failure to respond adequately.

00:25:01:20 – 00:25:21:19
Dr. Anthony Turton
People were driving around with security while the police were just watching. So, in other words, what came out of this was a clear indication that the government was in power but not in effective control. Control had shifted over to private militias, to armed militias.

Read more: RW Johnson: ANC/DA/IFP is SA democracy’s last hope – without it, all may be lost

00:25:21:21 – 00:25:46:05
Dr. Anthony Turton
Were those militias politically aligned? Mentioning now, I think what you said is going to become part and parcel of a kind of Islamic movement. We have also seen private security companies grow and take on many responsibilities of the police.

00:25:46:06 – 00:26:14:17
Dr. Anthony Turton
Another significant event was the deployment of these ideas. Vehicles were often brought down, and the vehicles were ill-equipped. There was poor planning and management in providing ammunition, diesel fuel, food, and the essentials that keep frontline troops ready. We saw the limitations of the army and their preparedness. So, this second aspect came out of the unrest, indicating a return to that nature. In my community, there is an organized mobile force that could potentially be mobilized.

00:26:14:19 – 00:26:42:17
Dr. Anthony Turton
These loose bits and pieces floating around are now collectively more powerful than the state, creating a truce or coalition between the militias and the state. This is going to make a difference in the future, and we need to watch this closely. Finally, we should consider the role of the taxi industry. Generally viewed with disdain, the taxi industry came down on the side of the militia and tried to restore order.

00:26:42:19 – 00:27:05:20
Dr. Anthony Turton
The taxi industry will play an interesting role in stability moving forward. In summary, the government of national unity is held together by forming alliances with armed militias to maintain order. If the militias do not become vigilantes, this could work. There is a fine line between a militia and a vigilante, and we need to be cautious about this.

00:27:05:22 – 00:27:27:12
Dr. Anthony Turton
What I’m describing is a delicate balance of forces. If the government of national unity can hold these forces together and forge necessary alliances, I see a slow, gradual return to confidence. This would be a gradual process, and the unpredictability of the situation remains a concern.

00:27:27:12 – 00:27:50:17
Dr. Anthony Turton
A common enemy for everyone, irrespective of color, race, or political persuasion, is the fiscal cliff. If the fiscal cliff hits, it will be catastrophic for businesses, state employees, and the entire economy. Averting the fiscal cliff is critical, and hopefully, the government of national unity is discussing policies to address it.

00:27:50:18 – 00:28:20:07
Dr. Anthony Turton
Putting together some constructive policies is essential to dodge it. This has to be done to prevent a major disaster.

00:28:20:11 – 00:29:17:12
Dr. Anthony Turton
If the fiscal cliff hits, it will be a catastrophic event for business, state employees, and the entire economy. Averting the fiscal cliff is critical, and hopefully, the government of national unity is discussing policies to address it.

00:29:17:14 – 00:29:39:14
Dr. Anthony Turton
Averting the fiscal cliff is essential, and the government must put together constructive policies to dodge it.

00:29:39:19 – 00:29:48:02
Alec Hogg
Dr. Anthony Turton is an analyst with a background in security and academia. I’m Alec Hogg from BizNews.com.

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