What’s driving the pro-Zuma protests in South Africa?

South Africa, one of Africa’s most developed countries, is witnessing its worst turmoil in years, with protestors looting and ransacking retail centres.

According to state and provincial authorities, 30 people have been killed in the unrest, four in Gauteng and 26 in KwaZulu-Natal.

But what caused the most recent outbreak of violence in South Africa?

The detention of former President Jacob Zuma, 79, sparked the first demonstrations. Zuma was convicted on June 29 for disobeying a constitutional court order to testify at a corruption investigation during his nine years in power.

He has only testified once during the investigation into what has come to be known as “state capture,” or the siphoning off of public assets. Zuma was probed of high-level corruption, and he was jailed.

Data from the court show that Zuma was charged with bribery, fraud, racketeering, and money laundering when he was vice president in 1999, and in connection with a $2.5 billion plan to acquire European military hardware to improve South Africa’s armed forces.

Zuma has claimed that the accusations against him are politically motivated, has criticized President Cyril Ramaphosa, and has rejected graft allegations. Thence, worsening the case.

The African National Congress, which has been in power for 27 years, since South Africa’s first fully democratic election in 1994, was split on Zuma’s legacy and whether he should be imprisoned.

Jacob Zuma remains a strong member of the party, despite being pushed out of power by his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), in 2018, he maintains a devoted following, particularly in his native region of KwaZulu-Natal.

Zulu supporters mobilized by family members and ANC leaders loyal to the former president led the first rallies in favour of Zuma after his arrest.

Crowds created a human barrier outside Zuma’s opulent mansion on Sunday in an attempt to prevent his arrest.

Similarly, before he turned himself in on Wednesday, a large throng gathered. This faction isn’t meant to be pleased with their leader’s detention.

However, when Zuma contested his 15-month prison sentence in South Africa’s top court on Monday, the violence escalated. The decision was immediately postponed until an undisclosed date.

But his supporters have started blocking major roadways – the country’s economic arteries – in order to demand Zuma’s release.

And although the arrest of Zuma was the direct source of the problems, the situation grew into a 27-year-long outpouring of rage over poverty and inequality in South Africa. COVID-19 economic impact also contributed to worsening the situation.

As Mervyn Abrahams, program coordinator for the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice Dignity Programme, had Said,

“South Africa has been sitting on a powder keg for some time.” “The rioting and looting is a prime way for many criminal elements to take advantage of the situation under the banner of ‘Free Zuma,’ whether they believe in it or not,…”, citing unemployment, inflation, and the lockdown.

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