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#UnrestSA: The Why, The How and The What TF Next.

My first reaction to the videos and headlines on the riots and looting taking place in South Africa was disbelief. Malls and trucks and tires burning, completely barren stores, desperate and irate people carrying whatever they could find, police dispersing rubber bullets at close range, vigilante residents carrying rifles and general fucking chaos. My second emotion was frustration. How could we have expected anything other than this as an eventuality?

Predictably SM has become the playground of racism, arguments against and for the riots and looting, fake news and threats to leave the country. I found incredibly valid and incredibly problematic statements on both but sadly not many explaining why this was happening, how the civil unrest came to be, or what tf to do next. This is my attempt to do that, not as a political analyst, a government member (or anyone who might be considered an expert) but as a citizen, like you, of a country I really do gaf about. (Plus a few links on how to become politically empowered, help those in need and clean up SA).


Earlier this month Concourt sentenced ex-president Jacob Zuma to 15 months in prison for acting in contempt of a court order and for undermining the process of law for failing to appear before the Zondo commission to testify. For a breakdown on when and why this began, watch this video. Quickly protests began arising over the imprisonment of Zuma among his supporters.


On Monday night President Cyril Ramaphosa called for calm following riots and looting in KZN and Gauteng, while the media continues to urge the public to condemn the ongoing violence we are still experiencing. The solution of increased police and army presence is widely supported even though many fear this will exacerbate an already fragile and volatile situation. But how can we quell anger and violence with the exact same mirrored responses? We need to ask why these events are taking place, and hopefully they will wake us up to the urgency of addressing the issues that brought us here:


During his presidency, Jacob Zuma came to be both an icon as well as a political scapegoat for many South Africans. For some he represented a dream of somebody who came from nothing, to become the president of a country and to others he was simply a symptom and a puppet of the darker forces that control our government and country.

"We need to hold those who have co-created, stoked and used this opportunity to their benefit accountable."

As we know Zuma did fall, but the forces of gangsterism, corruption, greed and government officials that believe they are above the law that kept him in power are still at play. This has resulted in a population that feels unrepresented and hopeless. The reality is that the people who pull the strings are still a small minority of those who have the most money, and the most access to information on politics. Many South Africans have lost faith in our government which is displayed in youth apathy towards voting due to lack of representation and a general lack of trust in the government overall.


The result of the above is a racially, economically and politically divided population that is easily manipulated and used as pawns for political gain. Which is exactly what those who incited and orchestrated the violence were aware of. Key players in the run up to our current civil unrest are being identified such as Zuma's children (Duduzane and Dudu Zuma-Sambudla for posting inflammatory tweets), possible ex senior members of the State Security Agency (who may have been involved in the orchestration of the protests) and Julius Malema of the EFF (for encouraging the unrest to continue in a spate of Tweets). The DA has begun laying criminal charges against Zuma's children and Julius Malema for incitement of violence, the SSA are investigating tip-offs and 12 instigators have been identified. New reports say that the looting and riots are a planned insurrection to destabilize the government.

"We are a country stuck in survival mode that is heavily traumatized by our violent past."

This all while we argue on social media about racism and justification. Which is not to say that these are not valid arguments - they just aren't going to change that racism exists in the way that structural change will or the fact that civil unrest was always inevitable, whether or not it is justified. Instead of debating and holding each other accountable, we need to hold those who have co-created, stoked and are using this civil unrest and racism for their own benefit accountable. This is where the focus should be going forward.


People are frustrated by a government that is failing them and scared of the insecurity the current space we are in presents. It's a basic human response to fear- freeze, fight or flight - is literally playing itself out on a national scale. Some of us are freezing (complaining, feeling hopeless and apathetic- doing nothing), choosing to fight (the angry and desperate protesters and looters at the moment) and some of us are choosing to flee (quite literally).

This response is a long overdue reaction to a deep leadership crisis we have been facing. We are a country stuck in survival mode that is heavily traumatized by our violent past. Is it not simply logic to expect us to jump to violence, apathy or avoidance when we feel threatened? But there is another option: responding (taking action).


You and I might not be the people on the ground fighting what we think is the threat to our country embodied in a group of people (or one person who symbolizes that) nor are we the people suffering the brunt of political failure and economic crisis looting the stores. But they are in each of us- in the fear at seeing things get worse when they are already very bad, in the hopelessness the headlines hammer in, in the ever-present anxiety of losing our livelihoods and lives, in the hate that springs so easily from these anxieties, fears and unanswered hopes.

"The path we take now must be one where we take back our country and refuse to be pawns of political, criminal and selfish forces."

The very next step, the one that will initiate real change, is the one that is the hardest and not all of us will be up to it past the action of posting and sharing our opinion on the matter. "There can be no return to business as usual after the rapidly mutating rupture in recent days" New Frame posts in A moment of rupture. "What happens in the months and years to come is of critical import."

The path we take now must be one where we take back our country for each other, and refuse to be helpless or distracted pawns of political, criminal and selfish forces. We cannot dismantle a government in one municipal election (coming up later this year), or undo the effects of a deeply entrenched unequal system by helping one community but we can plant the roots for change to take hold on a larger scale.

"Start by refusing to be a witness and become a participator."

As New Frame continued: "Now is the time, more than anything else, for a politics committed to equality, dignity and safety for all. Our collective future depends on it." Start by refusing to be a witness and become a participator: get involved in legislation, sign and create petitions, donate, volunteer, equip ourselves with knowledge and share it in our communities, participate in enacting change in our communities and in our country and finally... VOTE ffs.

A list of resources to empower you politically:

How to be active in politics

When and how to register to vote in the 2021 municipal elections

What you need to know about the 2021 municipal elections

How to comment on a bill (click on the bill title, check the date it is open for comment until, read the bill submit your opinion to the contact information on the last page)

Have your say in parliament (such as how to write a petition or submit your opinion on a bill)

Current leaders in government

Help those in need:


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