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[Published: Saturday July 17 2021]

 What this week’s violence means for South Africa

 
JOHANNESBURG, 17 July. - (ANA) - Scores of people have been killed and crucial infrastructure brought to a grinding halt as looting and violence spreads across South Africa. 
 
It began when former president Jacob Zuma handed himself in to begin a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court last week. His supporters “believe the former leader is the victim of a political witch-hunt”, Sky News reports, and government investigators have linked former loyalists, including the ex-head of the country’s State Security Agency, to the escalating chaos.  
 
The former president is accused of “industrial-scale state corruption” and his trial was viewed as a “critical test of post-apartheid South Africa’s commitment to upholding the rule of law”, writes The Times’ diplomatic correspondent Catherine Philp.
 
“Yet his imprisonment has led to the country exploding into the worst violence and lawlessness for years,” she adds. Zuma’s successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has accused him of “deliberately stoking the anger of Zulu nationalists”.
 
Philp agrees that “Zuma’s role in the violence is clear”. The foundation that represents him has described the deadly unrest as the “reactive righteous anger of the people... which others have characterised as violence”.
 
Ramaphosa has repeatedly appealed for calm, telling South Africans in a televised address to the nation: “This is not us.” But the ongoing violence is “underlining Ramaphosa’s weakness and his predecessor’s ability to foment disorder even from a prison cell”, says Philp.
 
Zuma “represents the ugly side” of the governing African National Congress (ANC), and “his supporters either tolerate corruption, or avidly indulge in it”. Ramaphosa, meanwhile, was appointed “to clean up the mess his predecessor left behind”.
 
As the death toll climbed to at least 117 on Thursday, the president sent in 25,000 members of the armed forces to aid police, “​​in the largest deployment of soldiers since the end of white minority rule in 1994”, according to the Independent.
 
Ramaphosa must stand firm in the face of the growing pressure to release Zuma from jail, says the Financial Times’ chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman, who argues that “survival of democracy depends on an independent judiciary”. The jailed ex-leader’s “nine years in office saw a rapid growth in corruption”, Rachman writes, but “with Zuma’s imprisonment, the rebuilding can begin in earnest”.  - (ANA) -
 
AB/ANA/17 July 2021 - - -
 

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