South Africa is in the grip of increasing lawlessness borne out through corruption and vigilantism as its government struggles to provide a clear and effective response to the country’s problems, a report by the Institute for Security Studies has claimed.
South Africans rebelled more the more they found that promises made to them at the ballot box were not kept, it said.
It warned that anger was growing over the ruling ANC’s failure to deliver basic services and narrow a gaping wealth gap, 18 years after defeating apartheid.
Johan Burger, its author, said that the shooting by police of 34 striking miners by police at the UK-listed Lonmin mine in Marikana was an example of the consequences of government inaction.
“Before the shooting, as the tensions built, there was an absence of leadership and of government,” he said. “A situation developed to the extent that the police were then expected to step in and provide some sort of solution to the problem and at the end of the day, they only have force.”
A lack of basic services such as running water, sanitation and electricity in large parts of the country has seen a stark increase in violent protests, Mr Burger said.
Corruption, another “endemic” example of lawlessness, sucks further resources that could be used to improve lives, he added. In poor areas, vigilantism also appears to be on the rise as community members lose faith in police to metre out justice to criminals in their midst.
According to police figures, there were 8,004 “crowd management” incidents in 2004/05, of which 622 required direct intervention such as arrests and the use of force. In 2011/12, these escalated by almost 38 per cent to 11,033, while those requiring direct intervention rose by more than 75 per cent to 1,091 cases.
Mr Burger said that many people are now warning that such protests could join up, prompting a Tunisia-style revolution by the poor and dispossessed.
“Unless the situation changes in terms of political leadership that cascades down through government departments to grassroots level, we will see this lawlessness continue to increase,” he said. “It may eventually lead to a situation of total revolt with all the possibilities that brings.”
He warned however that politicians of all levels were reluctant to take decisive action until after December, when the ANC meets in the Free State city of Mangaung to decide whether to re-elect President Jacob Zuma or replace him.
“I just hope we survive all of this until Mangaung and hopefully when that provides us with some stability in terms of political leadership,” he said.