• Avani Sood

Violence in South Africa


Protests kindled in South Africa after the government charged President Jacob Zuma with a 15-month arrest, actually turning himself in, due to refusing to appear before a judicial inquiry in an investigation of corruption during a nine-year rule. He refused his wrongdoing and disregarded the order they gave him to go to an inquiry into a high-level graft. Protests quickly developed into a series of looting of shops, malls, and warehouses. People stole livestock and sugarcane fields in Kwa-Zulu Natal.


The area with the country’s primary sugarcane growing area, Kwa-Zulu Natal, was set on fire. Looters have taken fridges, large TVs, microwaves, and crates for food and alcohol. Over 800 retail shops are looted and over 200 shopping malls are destroyed, damaged, or looted. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, a province in South Africa, goods costing between 400 million and 1 billion dollars are stolen or destroyed. The most heavily affected and concentrated area with the riots and looting is in the densely populated Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal. The death toll is at least 212 deaths with over 3,000 arrests.


Journalists covering the riots dealt with stolen equipment. Incredible pressure is now on the government, which needs to increase security focus to bring back assurance to the country. President Cyril Ramaphosa met with leaders of political parties. He mentioned that the country may run short of basic provisions with the disruption of food, fuel, and medical supply chains. There is also a disruption in traffic on important transport routes.


Why is it Happening

In 2018, Jacob Zuma resigned after being forced by Congress after multiple impeachments from important allegations. The whole situation was steady for months until chaos started when Zuma refused to reply to questions asked by Congress during his lawsuit. He promised to implement a widespread anti-corruption policy, but this failed to promote social reforms that would better the economic condition. His act of not answering questions the government understood as contempt and admission of guilt, which led the constitutional court to give him his sentence.


The former Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa took over authority as president. When Zuma was charged with multiple cases of corruption, it showed South Africa’s post-apartheid ability to reinforce the law. This apartheid was an enforced racial separation. Other factors with the situation include severe unemployment, inequality across the country, and COVID-related restrictions. Ramaphosa says that this violence is a repeated and formed assault against Africa’s democracy.


Nostalgia for Zuma emerged, leading to some post-apartheid support for him. A factor that went into the chaos may be the rivalries within ruling the African National Congress party. Some recent unrest is a deliberate effort to undermine rivals, as there may be an opening way to return to power or at the very least protecting economic interests. Supporters of the targets are community towers, roads, fuel supply routes, and water plants. Zuma’s core supporters say he’s a victim of a witch-hunt made by his political opponents.


Who/What is Affected?

The most heavily affected provinces in South Africa are Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, where goods and services are heavily affected. There are emergency wards flooded with casualties with gunshots from the violence. Health services in South Africa are in a tremendous strain, with the country undergoing its third wave of Covid infections and being the second-highest virus alert level. People could not get vaccinations temporarily because doctors’ offices and workers could not attend their work.


It is significant that these health facilities are kept safe so that people can get the health services they need. The injuries from the protests, mostly to do with trampling, have affected South Africa’s already weak healthcare system. Every government building and most stores, not including grocery outlets, were closed. Across the country, impressive lines formed outside of grocery stores and gas stations after logistics operators and refineries because employees could not get work. Within shopping centers, people look over merch and some people went through stores, using their phones as flashlights, people taking food and supplies for their family. It is more than likely that there will be a fuel shortage in the country. The lootings heavily affected the compromised energy and food security. Producers are struggling to get crops to market because of the logistical mess.

Slide 10

If the country didn’t restore law and order, there would be a massive humanitarian crisis. The deployment of troops is extremely expensive and isn’t helping South Africa’s faltering economy. South Africa was the year’s top emerging market currency and decreased to its lowest level against the dollar since April. The riots and protests are predicted to further worsen South Africa’s economy, especially since the country’s economy was negatively affected by Covid already. The cost is expected to be 615.7 million rands (42.7 million). Business and consumer confidence are ruined.

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How to Help/What is Being Done


Security officials work to take down the violence and unrest. Armed civilians formed self-operator or vigilante groups in a lot of the worst afflicted areas. They have set up barricades, and sometimes, fired on suspicious looters. Groups of commuters held their operations, supplying themselves with sticks and firearms. The original number of troops deployed to help the protests, initially 2,500, was overwhelmed. The Ministers of South Africa ordered 10,000 soldiers to be put on the streets as a response. Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula submitted a request for deployment of plus-minus 25,000 South African National Defense Force personnel soldiers. However, it is the actual time of deployment is uncertain, as the mobilization will take weeks to occur. The soldiers may also feed more claims by Zuma that they’re victims of a politically motivated crackdown by successors. It is important that the soldiers handle the violence without excessive force, as there are concerns that the soldiers may further damage the situation. This full call-up scale hasn’t been tried since the end of a racist apartheid regime in 1994. Besides the uncertainty of when the reinforcements will be deployed, there is also a concern that there are not enough reserves available to complete the minister’s request, which hasn’t been used for the first time in decades. To make a more economically just country, people will have to deal with inequality. It is not just low growth, but more than that it is inequality. It is high unemployment that has its connections with gratuitous amounts of violence. Leadership and action are needed to aid the situation, but there is a leadership vacuum within the body politics. Civil society needs to be written largely to make up for the lack of leadership. Some other help groups have worked to protect and clean up ruined malls and busses, or protected service stations. Clean-up operations are continuing, with prominent roads opening across Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng. The South African Council of Churches requested the government to make a limited amnesty where people could return the looted property to the police with no charges. Calm is returned or returning in a lot of the areas. A good amount of alleged instigators are identified. There is a complex package that is planned to be displayed at the government’s cabinet for thought. Ramaphosa says it is needed to give support to households and businesses so they can rebuild and restock. Calm returned to most Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu-Natal. The threat to the country and democracy is still there since the loss has not been apprehended and networks are not yet demolished. Some sections of South African Congress defended the formation of a state of emergency to implement stricter measures, although Ramaphosa believes it irrelevant since the country is beginning its return to normal.

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/15/south-africa-seeks-to-deploy-25000-troops-to-curb-unrest


http://saharareporters.com/2021/07/14/south-africa-crisis-worsens-72-persons-killed-over-1200-suspects-arrested


https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/15/south-africas-rand-slides-amid-fatal-riots-following-zuma-arrest.html


https://nypost.com/2021/07/14/looting-unrest-continues-for-sixth-straight-day-in-south-africa/


https://www.npr.org/2021/07/18/1017657465/inequity-is-behind-the-violent-unrest-in-south-africa


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-17/south-africa-mops-up-after-violent-protests-shake-the-nation


https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/07/13/south-africa-respect-rights-while-policing-riots




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