South Africa is not a stable country. The rapidity with which this violence spread demonstrates that it would be a fairly simple matter to overthrow the government and plunge the country into rule by tribal chieftains, crime gangs and war lords. Equally, it would be a simple matter to provoke a full-scale civil war.
The South African Police Service has been conspicuous only by its absence and impotence in the face of the looters. This suggests that despite the government’s mile-wide authoritarian streak, its actual control over the country is pretty fragile.
These protests have very little to do with protesting Zuma’s imprisonment, or with freeing Zuma. He is not incarcerated in shopping malls. This is no storming of the Estcourt Bastille. The mobs are liberating big-screen televisions and boxes of booze, not the former president.
As if in tribute to the looter-in-chief, the mobs are drunk with naked greed and lawless thievery.
Unrelated to the present wave of violence, but a highlight of the deteriorating security situation, was the killing of Nico Swart, general manager for operations at Rio Tinto’s Richards Bay Minerals, earlier this year. Local mafias increasingly make heavy demands on mines and construction projects to obtain jobs and payoffs. That makes for a very difficult business environment.
Railway tracks on large sections of the network have been lifted up and carted away as scrap. Stations have been destroyed by theft. Commuter trains on the Cape Town to Simonstown route are often gutted by fires. This destruction of key infrastructure has been going on for some time, but nothing is apparently done.
Could this be a glimpse into the future for the USA? Obviously that seems far-fetched now, but open borders and population changes can transform a country:
hat-tip Stephen Neil