The current rioting and unrest in South Africa was sparked by the imprisonment of former President Zuma, but its roots go back much, much further. Zuma was merely the spark that lit a fuse long laid and prepared. The BBC reports:
The death toll in South Africa has risen to 72 as violence continues across the country following the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma.
Crowds looting and setting alight shopping centres clashed with police in several cities on Tuesday.
. . .
President Cyril Ramaphosa has called it some of the worst violence witnessed in South Africa since the 1990s, before the end of apartheid, with fires started, highways blocked and businesses and warehouses looted in major cities and small towns in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.
Ministers have warned that if looting continues, there is a risk areas could run out of basic food supplies soon – but have ruled out declaring a state of emergency.
. . .
More than 200 shopping malls had been looted by Monday afternoon, Bloomberg news agency quoted the chief executive officer of Business Leadership South Africa, Busisiwe Mavuso, as saying.
Several shopping centres in Soweto – South Africa’s largest township which was once home to Nelson Mandela – have been completely ransacked, with ATMs broken into, restaurants, stores selling alcohol and clothing shops all left in tatters.
Soldiers working with the police managed to catch a few rioters; in total almost 800 have been arrested, but law enforcement remains heavily outnumbered, he reports.
In KwaZulu-Natal – where livestock has also been stolen – the unrest continues with ambulances coming under attack by rioters in some areas, South Africa’s TimesLive news site reports.
Video footage shows that a blood bank was looted in Durban as Mr Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday night.
. . .
Low income levels and unemployment – standing at a record high of 32.6% among the workforce and even higher at 46.3% among young people – are seen as the ticking bombs that have exploded.
There’s more at the link.
There are many lessons to be learned from the current unrest in South Africa. Kim du Toit, a fellow South African expatriate, addresses many of them in a blog post this morning. Here’s an excerpt.
The mayhem of the last 48 hours has wiped out our supply chain in KZN. Last week it was there, but today its gone. That complex web of transactions that moves goods across the landscape, like an army of ants on a single minded mission, each moving their package relentlessly throughout the colony of ants. Our network is now gone.
So as the day dawns I can reliably predict that we will rapidly start to encounter shortages of crucial goods like fuel for motor vehicles, food for hungry stomachs, medication for the sick, cash to grease the wheels of trade and spare parts to keep the machinery of commerce going.
ATMs are gone, so we will rapidly run out of cash. Grocery stores have been destroyed, so even if they can procure goods from the warehouses now burned to the ground, they will be unable to transact because the tills are gone and the point of payment card machines destroyed. The retail malls have been so destroyed that it will take months to rebuild them. More importantly, the Clicks and Diskem pharmacy chains that are the most efficient delivery vehicles for the national vaccine rollout, are simply no more.
I therefore predict an acute shortage of fuel, food and medication. These three things will hit almost everyone, and very soon.
More at the link, and highly recommended reading. As Kim notes, “Anyone who thinks this can’t or won’t happen here is deluding himself … think Minneapolis and Ferguson, times ten. I see burned-out city centers, and rampant poverty and lawlessness therein.”
There are many issues besides unemployment that have raised tensions in South Africa, but it’s probably the biggest single problem confronting the country. Inadequate education and a lack of resources and facilities – a problem going back generations – has meant that many of the country’s youth are not only unemployed, but unemployable in a modern economy. They’re educated only sufficiently to perform manual labor, not for anything more demanding of skills and logical reasoning – and in a modern economy, there’s only so much demand for manual labor.
Another issue coming to the fore during the rioting is widespread xenophobia. Millions of people from other African countries and South-East Asia have migrated illegally to South Africa, because poor though its economy may be, it’s light years ahead of most other African nations, and offers at least the prospect of earning enough to support a family. However, South Africans – particularly those less educated, competing for a limited number of jobs – regard them as intruders, taking the bread out of the mouths of locals. There have been riots in the past about this, and killings too. I rather suspect that the current unrest will serve as cover for more of the same.
The fundamental problem remains that South Africa’s economy is simply too small to accommodate massive population growth. That was aggravated by an exodus of many qualified people, mostly white, who found themselves increasingly discriminated against following the end of apartheid in 1994. Basically, anyone – of any race – who had the skills and education necessary to qualify for emigration to any nation offering better prospects has already taken advantage of that. One can’t blame them, of course. (I didn’t leave South Africa for economic or political reasons, but I certainly took advantage of the opportunity when it arose. Quite frankly, it’s probably the only reason I’m still alive. The life-threatening pressures and tensions of the period 1976-1994, from the Soweto uprising to the first fully democratic elections, took their toll on me, and I’m sure contributed greatly to my heart condition. Stress will do that to you.)
Widespread poverty, corruption and nepotism have led to the current unrest. The Zuma controversy was merely “the last straw that broke the camel’s back“. There’s no solution in sight, and as long as the present government continues in office, I doubt one will be forthcoming. If the ANC is voted out of office, the odds are very good that it’ll be replaced by a far more radical, extremist party that will push the country into hard-line socialism, if not actual communism. That may be the death knell for South Africa as we know it.
I’m sure there’ll be some who claim that this would never have happened under a white government. They’re wrong, because they ignore demographics. Rule by a racial minority that, as a proportion of the South African population, was becoming ever more of a minority with every passing year, was fundamentally unsustainable. Demography is inexorable and relentless. Its numbers don’t lie. Apartheid was a desperate attempt to deny the undeniable, to delay the inevitable – and, inevitably, it failed. However, largely due to its failure to promote an overall South African national identity and properly educate its people as a whole, apartheid must bear its fair share of the blame for the mess in which South Africa finds itself at present. It’s not solely responsible, but it’s right up there with other factors.
Of course, there are those who’ll have different views to mine. In the interests of fairness and a broader perspective, see this video interview yesterday between Lauren Southern (whom I regard as a white nationalist extremist) and Ian Cameron, a firearms and personal defense advocate in South Africa. I agree with some, but by no means all, of what Mr. Cameron has to say. There are many who’d be more on his side than mine.