How should South Africa move forward after its unrest?July 22, 2021 730 views 8 comments 2 minutes reading time
Since the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma, South Africa has been gripped by a wave of protests and looting. More than 1,700 have been placed in custody and 70 killed since last week as the police and the army struggle to restore peace to the country once heralded as a rainbow nation.
How did it all start? After presiding over a string of corruption scandals, which notably include the use of public funds to revamp his Nkandla compound, and the enablement of the Gupta family to influence the running of government for their advantage, Zuma received a vote of no confidence and resigned as President in 2018. On the 7th of July 2021, he was arrested for contempt of court following his refusal to appear before the Zondo Commission where he would have faced charges of sixteen counts of corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering. His arrest initially celebrated as a win for the rule of law, led to the worst demonstrations the country has seen since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Why would Zuma’s arrest result in protest? Zuma is an influential figure, particularly amongst his ethnic group the Zulu who mainly reside in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng, the provinces at the centre of the protests. Members of his family have also been accused of inciting the demonstrations. In addition, South Africa has one of the most unequal societies in the world. Discontent due to poverty, unemployment, crime and a global pandemic has made the situation in the country volatile with many believing that Zuma’s arrest was merely a triggering event.
Is there any end in sight? President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that several of the instigators of the unrest have been identified. However, it may take more than apprehending the alleged offenders to resolve the deep-rooted tension in the nation.
How should South Africa move forward following this unrest? What needs to be done to address the issues that led to the protests? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!