SOUTH AFRICA, Sarah-Leah Pimentel •
Protests erupted in South Africa on Friday, 9 July. Although it has not been officially confirmed, it is thought that the protests are being organized by factions within the ruling African National Congress who are unhappy with the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma. —
Zuma is facing 15 months in prison for refusing to cooperate with the courts on investigations into corruption during his tenure as president.
The protests have escalated from Kwazulu-Natal Province — where Zuma has his stronghold — to Johannesburg and Pretoria. Protestors have looted and burned down essential infrastructure, including grocery stores, malls, warehouses and hospitals.
The sheer extent of the violence has stunned many South Africans. These events are a clear sign of the times. High levels of unemployment, especially among the youth aged from 18-35, poor levels of education, poverty, the economic slowdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that led the closure of many businesses and ensuing job losses, and frustration with the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown that has, among many other things introduced a stringent curfew and banned the sale and consumption of alcohol, have all been contributing factors to the mass escalation of protests.
Despite the images of damage, though to be in the millions of dollars after 5 days of looting and vandalism, communities have come together to protect businesses and infrastructure in their areas, often in the absence of police and the army, who are overstretched and focused on priority infrastructure. We have seen residents confront the looters to return stolen items, and people have come together to begin mop up operations.
We have a long way to go and it unclear when the protests will end, even as the government tries to balance containment with the least loss of life possible. But South Africa prays that peace will prevail, so that its citizens can begin the hard work of rebuilding all that has been lost.
Interesting links from Church authorities:
Jesuit Institute of Southern Africa: https://www.scross.co.za/2021/07/south-africa-wholesale-destruction-mocks-liberty/
Southern African Bishops Conference: https://www.scross.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/SACBC-Statement-on-violent-protests-and-looting.pdf