No other African country has been as affected by the pandemic as South Africa. The continent’s financial and industrial center, Gauteng – the province where Pretoria, the capital, and Johannesburg, the main city – concentrated the largest number of cases in the three waves that devastated the continent. With 14,000 of the 64,000 deaths in the country to date, it is the province with the highest number of deaths.
Gauteng also crystallizes all the dynamics of deindustrialisation, the bankruptcy of public services and the distension of the social pact. It is home to a service economy heavily dependent on the international movement that simply collapsed during the pandemic. The 7% drop in GDP last year exposed inequalities, the highest in the world, which have increased dramatically over the past three decades. Testimony to the failure of the democratic process set up by Nelson Mandela.
Hot readings of the explosion of violence in recent days, which have resulted in the deaths of more than 70 people and paralyzed the country, take the recent incarceration of Jacob Zuma as their starting point.
Earlier this month, the former president, embroiled in catastrophic corruption scandals, was sentenced to jail, but initially said he would not appear in court. The process, closely followed by the population, seems to have been at the origin of some clashes between militants and police in the region of KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s political stronghold and center of the quarrel between the CNA (African National Congress, the ruling party) since the end of apartheid) and the Zulu nationalists.
Supporting the former president is also a revolt against the CNA itself. Zuma’s successor at the helm of the acronym and the country, Cyril Ramaphosa, initiated a competent management, but excessively technocratic, which raised him to the rank of darling of the markets, but removed him from the base of the legend.
The social upheavals that have marked the recent history of South Africa and that have traveled the world bring together all kinds of material and symbolic elements, including students, gathered around the Rhodes Must Fall movement – which advocates the overthrow of the statues honoring figures of colonization. period -; xenophobic attacks on immigrants, who compete with South Africans in the tight local labor market; and the Marikana massacre, when minors were murdered by police after a demonstration.
But this time, the speed and violence of the devastation is unprecedented. Attacks on logistics centers are creating problems with food and fuel supplies at a time when hospitals in some of the country’s main areas are on the verge of collapse. The vaccination campaign, which was finally starting to gain momentum, had to be stopped. This method behind the protests indicates, according to local analysts, the involvement of factions of the security apparatus linked to Zuma, who have always mastered the art of using the state to achieve their patronage ends.
With the confusion between CNA and public power that has existed since the end of apartheid and the worsening of social constraints, South Africa is experiencing a scenario of health crisis and social explosion that everyone feared at the start of the pandemic. An explosive combination in one of the countries most affected by the abandonment by the international community of the countries of the South during the pandemic. The country’s revolt is the image of an exhausted Africa.