South Africa Deserves a Big, Fat Prize

South Africa is paying a heavy price for its good deed of telling the world about the Omicron variant of the virus that causes Covid-19. Many countries, including Britain and the United States, are restricting air travel to and from the nation. That will do more damage to an economy already weakened by the pandemic.

We are setting a bad precedent. In the future, dangerous new variants of the virus could spread farther if countries hide evidence of them — or simply don’t search very hard for them — to avoid the economic repercussions.

What’s the solution? One possibility is to minimize the harm to South Africa by refraining from placing travel bans on it and other nations in southern Africa.…  Seguir leyendo »

The quarry near Carletonville, west of Johannesburg, known as 'Africa's best mineral' quarry. Photo by MARCO LONGARI/AFP via Getty Images.

Mining unquestionably remains one of South Africa’s most important economic sectors, contributing 8-10 per cent of national GDP and, on average, each of its almost half a million strong labour force providing income for nine dependents.

But South Africa’s share of the global mining exploration expenditure dropped a staggering 20.5 per cent in 2020 to rank only sixth in Africa and represent less than one per cent of the global exploration spend – its lowest place in decades and a devastating position for a country whose geological attractiveness should protect its status as a top global player.

Despite still being valued at $77.4 million, this huge reduction in exploration has adverse knock-on effects for the pipeline of planned investment in brownfield, mid-stream and downstream mineral value chain projects, and the supply chain, all of which will shrink the industry at least for the foreseeable future.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man fired a handgun in the air in the Vosloorus township of South Africa to disperse suspected looters on July 14. The events of the past weeks demonstrated a bleak truth about the country. Credit Guillem Sartorio/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the past few weeks, South Africa was gripped by the biggest explosion of unrest in decades. Shopping malls and warehouses were looted, supply trucks attacked and businesses destroyed. At least 337 people died.

Initially, as families loaded up consumer goods they would otherwise be unable to afford, the tumult seemed like an organic expression of popular discontent. After all, with unemployment over 30 percent, hunger widespread and inequality spiraling, there’s ample cause for anger. But far from a spontaneous social revolt, the rioting seems in fact to have been politically orchestrated.

After Jacob Zuma, the country’s former president, was arrested on July 7 — to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of court — his supporters and allies vowed to make the country ungovernable.…  Seguir leyendo »

A protester runs near a burning building during a protest on 12 July 2021 against the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Timothy Barnard / Sputnik via AFP

What happened?

Following the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma on 7 July, mobs rampaged through shopping malls and industrial parks throughout South Africa’s two most populous provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, looting nearly a thousand shops and warehouses as an overwhelmed police force largely stood by. The riots also ravaged large parts of the port city of Durban, forcing the country’s largest refinery on the city’s outskirts to shut down temporarily, while roads to its harbour – sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest – also closed, disrupting fuel and food deliveries as well as key exports.

While the nation has since settled into an uneasy calm, it will take some time to repair the damage caused by its deadliest period of unrest since the end of white minority rule in 1994.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman cleans debris outside the Dube Village mall in Durban, South Africa, on July 17, after several days of looting and unrest. (Guillem Sartorio/AFP/Getty Images)

Former South African president Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment for boycotting an inquiry into high-level corruption has triggered protests and looting on a scale not seen since the apartheid era. The army is in the streets, and more than 200 people are dead.

Zuma was forced to resign the presidency in disgrace in 2018 when he lost the backing of his party, the long-dominant African National Congress (ANC), amid widespread allegations of corruption and abuse of power. The last Afrobarometer public opinion survey conducted during his tenure revealed growing popular disaffection with his rule — his approval rating dropped sharply, to 34 percent, as more and more South Africans perceived that levels of corruption were on the rise.…  Seguir leyendo »

Looters outside a shopping center alongside a burning barricade in Durban, South Africa on July 12. (Andre Swart/AP)

South Africa is a tinderbox marked by extreme inequality. And last week, the country’s ruling party lit the match.

Anarchic scenes of violence and large-scale looting engulfed the populous provinces of Gauteng, the mining and financial heartland, and KwaZulu-Natal along the east coast. Nine days of mayhem left at least 200 people dead, 40,000 businesses affected, 100 shopping complexes looted, 1,400 ATMs and about 300 banks and post offices vandalized. In KwaZulu-Natal, an estimated 150,000 jobs are at risk with a $1.3 billion impact on the province’s economy.

All this was started at the behest of organized groups, some reportedly with links to the country’s spy agencies, who targeted economic infrastructure, with a well-organized social media campaign.…  Seguir leyendo »

A worker sits in a looted shop in Soweto, Johannesburg. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

‘It feels qualitatively different this time.” There are few people I know in South Africa who don’t think this about the carnage now engulfing the nation. Violence was institutionalised during the years of apartheid. In the post-apartheid years, it has rarely been far from the surface – police violence, gangster violence, the violence of protest. What is being exposed now, however, is just how far the social contract that has held the nation together since the end of apartheid has eroded.

Many aspects of the disorder are peculiar to South Africa. There are also themes with wider resonance. Events in the country demonstrate in a particularly acute fashion a phenomenon we are witnessing in different ways and in degrees of severity across the globe: the old order breaking down, with little to fill the void but sectarian movements or identity politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two members of the South African Police Service try to disperse alleged looters outside the Chris Hanni Mall in Vosloorus on July 14. (Guillem Sartorio/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the past few days, scenes of looting and violent protests have emerged from South Africa following the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma. Yet it is a mistake to interpret what is unfolding as a sign of massive political support for Zuma. It is also an error to see the gross acts of criminality and theft as inexplicable.

On the contrary, the scenes of violent destruction playing out in the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are the logical and foreseeable consequences of the moral decline, and technocratic failure, of the African National Congress-run state. These deeper roots of this week’s violence should not be obscured with hasty moralizing about the antisocial behavior of people living on the margins of South African society.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the South African National Defense Force patrol the streets after the looting of local department stores in Soweto, South Africa, on Tuesday. (Kim Ludbrook/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

On July 7, former South African president Jacob Zuma surrendered to police and was arrested. Local protests, centered on the Zuma family compound, have been ongoing since late June.

Since Zuma’s arrest last week and the high court’s denial of his appeal on Friday, protests have spread to major cities and townships in South Africa. Online hashtags call for #FreeJacobZuma, and in Durban, protesters threatened to shut down the KwaZulu-Natal province unless authorities released Zuma, South Africa’s first Zulu president.

Over the weekend, police arrested hundreds of people as the protests turned violent. By Tuesday, at least 45 people had died, many of them trampled as crowds began looting.…  Seguir leyendo »

Jacob Zuma at a press conference on 4 July 2021. He handed himself in to police three days later. Photograph: Shiraaz Mohamed/AP

On Wednesday night, at 45 minutes to midnight, Jacob Zuma blinked. In what was the most consequential moment for the rule of law in post-apartheid South Africa, the former president handed himself into police.

Zuma was, in fact, three days late. The apex constitutional court ruled last week that he must surrender himself by Sunday on a charge of contempt of court, after repeatedly refusing to appear before a statutory commission looking at allegations of corruption made against him. If he did not voluntarily turn himself in, the police minister was set to arrest him by midnight on Wednesday. For the past week, Zuma and his supporters – gathered outside his rural redoubt near Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal – threatened resistance and even war against the state if the authorities tried to enter the compound, while his lawyers engaged in futile litigation to try to get him off the hook (a judge dismissed Zuma’s application this morning).…  Seguir leyendo »

Prince Misuzulu Zulu, center, flanked by fellow warriors in traditional dress at the KwaKhangelamankengane Royal Palace, during a ceremony, in Nongoma on May 7. (AP Photo) (AP)

The succession battle within the royal family of South Africa’s 11-million-strong Zulu nation kicked into high gear this month. After a reign that lasted half a century, King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu died March 12. The king, or Ingonyama, chose one of his six queens, Queen Shiyiwe Mantfombi Dlamini-Zulu, as his regent.

This smooth transition of power was upended after Queen Mantfombi died April 29, which precipitated a succession battle. Multiple branches of the royal family have laid claim to the throne, alleging the illegitimacy of the king’s heirs and lodging accusations of forged wills and poisoning attempts. This isn’t just royal family drama — here’s what’s at stake.…  Seguir leyendo »

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appears on behalf of the African National Congress at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture and corruption, held in Johannesburg on April 29. (Kim Ludbrook/Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

In late April, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the head of the African National Congress (ANC), announced that this year’s much-anticipated local government elections would take place on Oct. 27.

Just hours later, ANC spokesman Pule Mabe spoke with reporters about the upcoming elections, but the context was quite different. Mabe expressed shock at the arrest of ANC party member and local councilor Lucky Mbuzi in connection with the killing of a fellow ANC member, Mduduzi Madikizela.

Madikizela’s death isn’t a tragic aberration. Political violence is a regular feature of local politics in post-apartheid South Africa, part of a broader phenomenon of competition and conflict at the heart of the ANC.…  Seguir leyendo »

South African Defense Forces and police check a minibus driver who violated the lockdown in Johannesburg, on March 27. (Jerome Delay)

The World Health Organization last month praised South Africa’s decisive coronavirus action, combining mass screening with one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Media reports also noted a side benefit — an apparent drop in homicides and “miracle” gang truces.

But that’s not the full story. My research with gangs in Cape Town suggests these reports are misleading. Media reports in fact may be masking how harsh policing and the economic strain of lockdown are making gangs stronger.

The problem of militarized policing

South Africa’s army has been deployed to help enforce curfews and lockdown rules, but this has raised concerns over the “militarization” of policing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cyril Ramaphosa at NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg where facilities are in place to treat coronavirus patients. Photo by JEROME DELAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

In the COVID-19 crisis so far, Cyril Ramaphosa has been widely praised for displaying the decisive leadership so many hoped for when they cast their ballot for him in May 2019. Buttressed by others such as health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, and on a simple objective to prevent transmission, South Africa has been a lesson to the world. Act fast. Act hard.

Former president Thabo Mbeki’s disastrous response to the HIV crisis cast a long shadow over his legacy, and Ramaphosa has taken note. South Africa has had one of the tightest lockdowns in the world. No exercise. No cigarettes. No alcohol.…  Seguir leyendo »

It was a rare moment of national unity in a country that in the past decade has become increasingly fractious and fraught with racial and ethnic tensions. But it did not last long.

To widespread local acclaim, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa last Monday announced that a 21-day national lockdown to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus would start at midnight that Thursday. The government's measures mean that the country's borders are now closed except for transportation of fuel and essential goods. Inter-provincial travel is banned. Public transport is restricted, and only business providing essential services can remain open. Solitary exercise is not permitted, and alcohol and cigarette sales have been stopped.…  Seguir leyendo »

Builders work on an outside yard at the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital in Johannesburg in 2016. Photo: Getty Images.

At the United Nations general assembly in September, all countries, including South Africa, reaffirmed their commitment to achieving universal health coverage by 2030. This is achieved when everybody accesses the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.

As governments outlined their universal health coverage plans, it was noticeable that some had made much faster progress than others, with some middle-income countries outperforming wealthier nations. For example, whereas Thailand, Ecuador and Georgia (with national incomes similar to South Africa) are covering their entire populations, in the United States, 30 million people still lack health insurance and expensive health bills are the biggest cause of personal bankruptcy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Zulu residents wave batons in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday after the city was hit by a new wave of anti-foreigner violence. (Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images)

In Pretoria and Johannesburg, there’s been xenophobic violence and looting over the past week. The violence, targeting foreign-owned businesses and foreign residents in these two South African cities, has led to at least 10 deaths, including two foreigners, and more than 400 arrests. National and provincial governments have dispatched police in riot gear with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Protesters and looters destroyed thousands of dollars of private property, leaving businesses and homes burned and city streets littered with burning tires. Looters have targeted shopping centers.

Xenophobic violence has been a persistent problem in South Africa, but the recent clashes prompted an international diplomatic fight between two of Africa’s regional powers: South Africa and Nigeria.…  Seguir leyendo »

On 25 May, Cyril Ramaphosa will be inaugurated as president of South Africa, having dragged the African National Congress (ANC) over the line in the 8 May election. The ANC gained a 57 per cent majority, its lowest vote since 1994, its status as national liberator deeply eroded by successive corruption scandals. Only Ramaphosa’s personal popularity stopped it haemorrhaging more support.

His sustained action against corrupt public servants and promises of job-creating economic growth has attracted support from beyond the ANC’s base, including a significant minority of white voters, and generated significant international goodwill. Ramaphosa now has a short window of opportunity to reset social democracy in South Africa before the political cycle of municipal, party and national elections from 2021 to 2024 forces his attention back to party politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

African National Congress (ANC) supporters cheer while they wait for the speech of President-elect Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa outside the ANC's headquarters in Johannesburg, on Sunday. (Wikus De Wet/AFP/Getty Images)

Just 15 months ago, South Africa’s democracy faced the gravest crisis in its 25-year history. The governing African National Congress (ANC), the party of Nelson Mandela, scrambled to oust President Jacob Zuma, whom many accused of fostering a sprawling, deep network of state corruption. So dire was the crisis that a new term entered the national lexicon — “state capture” — when those in power systematically subvert public institutions and divert public resources for political and financial gain.

So what happened in the May 8 national elections? The ANC and its reformist presidential candidate, Cyril Ramaphosa, received 58 percent of the vote.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cyril Ramaphosa waving at supporters in Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday.CreditCreditMarco Longari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

South Africa goes to the polls on Wednesday in its fifth general election since the advent of democracy in 1994. I will hold my nose and vote for the African National Congress, once the party of Nelson Mandela.

I once passionately supported the A.N.C. I abandoned it a decade ago because of its arrogance, its muddle-headed policy and the way it turned my country into a kleptocracy, so soon after it delivered us so stunningly into democracy. In the past three elections I have voted for opposition parties because of the need to break the A.N.C.’s corrupting stranglehold on power. But the situation facing South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has brought me back, at least for now.…  Seguir leyendo »