A security expert with the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) has labelled death threats against DA leader Mmusi Maimane as early indicators of a “slide into populist authoritarianism”, more commonly known as a dictatorship.
Maimane’s chief of staff, Geordin Hill-Lewis, has confirmed several serious threats were received against Maimane, which had prompted him to appear at anti-Zuma marches in Johannesburg on Friday wearing a bulletproof vest.
“We received a number of threats in the days preceding the march.
“There were the publicly made threats from the ANCYL and MKMVA and various others and then there were some threats received directly against Mr Maimane, obviously all anonymous,” Hill-Lewis said.
Two men were detained by private security shortly after Maimane arrived, one impersonating a security guard and another with numerous knives, he said. The impersonator was questioned and later released, while the man with knives was arrested.
Gauteng police spokeswoman Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said yesterday police had no knowledge of any arrests related to the march.
“On the day of the march itself, we had obviously had security with their eyes peeled.”
He confirmed the two incidents mentioned by Hill-Lewis. Maimane’s take 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 take,” he said outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Friday.
The head of the Governance, Crime and Justice Division of ISS, Gareth Newham, said yesterday threats against not only Maimane but ANC insiders such as Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe were a sign that the ANC was losing its arguments with opposition parties and even anti-Zuma factions within the ruling party.
The Mail and Guardian on Friday reported that Sisulu had escaped two assassination attempts and while she had not criticised President Jacob Zuma in public, she apparently had no qualms in taking him to task during internal meetings.
Newham said the characters issuing threats were feeling threatened by those challenging Zuma and his loyalists, in that they were trying to intimidate or make life uncomfortable for the people they saw as posing a threat to their interests.