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Assessing and promoting civil and minority rights in South Africa.

[Source: Politicsweb by RW Johnson.]

The violent rioting and looting in Gauteng and the systematic attacks on, and looting of trucks on the N3 between Durban and Johannesburg have come in the same week as Tito Mboweni’s plan for structural reform. In very different ways both are signs of desperation.

In one sense the civil disorder is eerily reminiscent of the 1976 riots in Soweto, the unrest which led to the shootings at Sharpeville and Langa in 1960 or even the Cato Manor riots of 1959. Although the ANC made great play with all these events in its propaganda, the fact is that it had no control over any of them. The Cato Manor disturbances began with grievances over shebeens and seem to have been more or less spontaneous, while the later massacre of nine policemen seems to have been carried out by an urban mob under no political direction.

In the Sharpeville case the anti-pass agitation was really the work of the PAC while in Soweto the rioting students looked to Steve Biko, not the ANC. Indeed the very nature of these urban disorders – as also the xenophobic riots of 2008 – is that they depend heavily on rumour, the almost spontaneous combustion of circumstances and events and many personnel below the level of the political. It was the same again this time with Ramaphosa and Bheki Cele issuing “calls for calm” which, although doubtless well meant, were in the circumstances almost fatuous.

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South Africa at a Glance
58 780 000 (mid 2019 estimate)
4.1% y/y in September 2019 (CPI) & +4.1 y/y in September 2019 (PPI)
3.1% q/q (2nd quarter of 2019)
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