Order must be restored quickly in Africa’s most industrialised country
South africa offers dry kindling for political conflagration. Unemployment and inequality are preposterously high. Many people lack food, power and running water, while members of the ruling African National Congress (anc) gorge on graft. In the two years before covid-19 there were more protests than probably at any time in the democratic era. The pandemic, Africa’s worst if official statistics are to be trusted, has killed at least 65,000 people and plunged many more into destitution.
Yet the violence that has engulfed the country in the past week is not a spontaneous protest against such ills. It was incited, and in some cases perhaps instigated, by people close to the former president, Jacob Zuma. Their narrow aim is to have him released after his imprisonment on July 7th for contempt of court for refusing to appear before a judge-led inquiry into his corrupt reign of 2009-18. Their broader goal is to make the country ungovernable so as to undermine his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa. For South Africa’s sake, they must not succeed.