Deadly protests and looting broke out across South Africa—a country that has economically suffered under COVID-19 lockdowns—after the arrest earlier this month of Jacob Zuma, the former president, for failing to attend a corruption inquiry over his nine-year rule.
The Financial Times described a dire situation in the country. Cities “are trawled by gangs of looters, motorways, and vital economic arteries have shut, as have vaccination centers and businesses.” At least 200 people have been killed by either police, in stampedes, or by vigilantes, The Washington Post reported.
Major warehouses in Durban, the coastal city in eastern South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province and the country’s biggest port, have been burned and looted. Police officers often watch the crimes unfold without so much as blowing a whistle.
“It is a war zone,” John Steenhuisen, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, told the FT. “Towns deserted, shops looted, bodies lying on the road. We have an internal ANC [African National Congress] battle that has spilled over onto the streets of KwaZulu-Natal… the initiative has been lost by the security services. They need urgent reinforcement.”
KwaZulu-Natal is considered to be Zuma’s home area, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The country’s defense ministry ordered more troops into the street than any other time since the end of apartheid in 1994. The country has deployed 10,000 soldiers and there are plans to deploy 15,000 more in the next few days.
The paper reported that Zuma has been blamed for hollowing out security forces in the country and filling them with “acolytes.” These agencies became an arm of the Zuma government and were employed to harass opposition figures, the report said.
“South Africa is a country that has been dealing with a lot already, and all it needed was just a spark,” Sello Hatang, the chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, told The Washington Post. “President Zuma became a spark of the worst kind because it was at a time when the pressure had now come to bear, and many people had lost a lot more jobs.”
The Trends Journal has reported on the challenging economic situation in the country. On 10 March 2020, we ran an article titled, “SOUTH AFRICA: RECESSION TO DEPRESSION” and pointed out that South African president Cyril Ramaphosa’s attempt to get the economy back on track was stalled. We predicted at the time:
“The current recession took hold before any disruption caused by the coronavirus sensation. As South Africa’s economic crisis worsens, citizen protests will dramatically escalate, and the government will take strong military measures to quell the riots and demonstrations.”
The FT pointed out that even before Ramaphosa, previously a miner union leader and now a businessman worth some half a billion dollars, began to order lockdowns, joblessness in the country was stubbornly high among the young. Youth unemployment reached 74 percent. Overall unemployment in the country is about 32 percent. More than half of the country’s 58 million are living in poverty.
The paper said the social safety net was hurt during the lockdowns and—because of public angst—unrest was all but certain. The government’s decision to stop an emergency $24 monthly grant for the jobless was also criticized as an unwise decision.
“This all began with ANC factionalism,” Ziyanda Stuurman, a security analyst, told the paper. She said in “the most unequal country in the world, there were always going to be people who felt that they had nothing to lose.”
One owner of a security firm in the country told the paper that the protests are not about Zuma.
“People are hungry because of this lockdown and unemployment,” he said. The Al Jazeera report said that “fuel, food, and medicine shortages” are expected to be felt in the country in the next few days.
Al Jazeera reported that thousands of businesses in the country have been looted, including 200 malls and shopping centers. Humphrey Jeffries, the owner of a trucking components business in the Johannesburg Central Business District, told the news network that his business has been closed:
“We are not open because we will be looted of equipment that took us decades to afford and my staff of 14 must stay home until it’s safe,” he said. “After 48 years of being in business, we face the real prospect of lay-offs and even closure now. We managed to get through the initial COVID-19 madness of lockdowns but this is too much now.”
Zuma, 79, voluntarily surrendered earlier this month to start a 15-month prison sentence. He was found guilty of contempt for failing to appear before a commission, The New York Times reported. His loyalists claim that he was the victim of a conspiracy, the paper said, noting that the claim was made without evidence.
TREND FORECAST: As we have noted in the Trends Journal, nations across the globe that were already in the grips of social unrest prior to COVID have been locked down, and the protests that were threatening ruling governments have been prohibited, despite low death rates. As Gerald Celente has noted, “When people lose everything and have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”
South Africa, as we have been reporting, is one of those nations that was wracked in protests and economically sinking before the COVID War was launched. Thus, we forecast rising crime, deepening poverty and rampant civil unrest.