CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.
Most violent unrest since end of apartheid in 1991 killed over 300. After former President Zuma 7 July began serving 15-month prison sentence for refusing to testify in corruption probe, riots next day erupted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, with mobs blocking major highways, looting shops and warehouses. Protesters 11 July marched through capital Johannesburg, with acts of vandalism reported. Rioters 13 July looted warehouses and supermarkets in port city of Durban, forcing country’s largest refinery on city’s outskirts to shut down temporarily, while roads to Durban’s harbour – sub-Saharan Africa’s largest – also closed, disrupting fuel and food deliveries as well as key exports. Army 13 July announced dispatch of 25,000 troops to provinces. President Ramaphosa 16 July said calm had been restored and unrest was “deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy”; also announced arrest of over 2,500 people for alleged involvement in violence. Govt 22 July said 337 people killed during unrest. Zuma 19 July sought further delay of corruption trial; High Court in Pietermaritzburg city next day granted request, adjourning proceedings by three weeks to 10-13 Aug.
Following Aug-Sept xenophobic violence, foreign nationals 8 Oct began sit-in protest near office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cape Town demanding relocation out of South Africa; refugees and asylum seekers 20 Oct also protested outside UNHCR offices in Pretoria and Johannesburg. In Cape Town, police 30 Oct forcibly tried to disperse sit-in protest near UNHCR office, arresting about 100. Ramaphosa attended first Russia-Africa summit in Sochi, Russia 23-24 Oct; for first time two Russian nuclear-ready bombers on training mission landed in South Africa 23 Oct, left 28 Oct.
Xenophobic rioting continued, leaving at least ten people dead, including two foreigners, souring relations between South Africa and other African nations, especially Nigeria. Following riots and attacks on foreign-owned businesses in capital Pretoria late Aug, protests in Johannesburg against foreigners accused of drug-dealing 1 Sept deteriorated into riots and attacks on foreigners and foreign-owned businesses. Violence continued for several days and flared again mid-month in Johannesburg. Security forces arrested over 400. Lorry drivers 1 Sept began nationwide strike to protest employment of foreign drivers, some torched vehicles driven by foreigners and blocked roads in multiple places across country; in response police arrested over twenty people in KwaZulu-Natal province in south east. President Ramaphosa 3 Sept condemned xenophobic attacks. In response, Nigeria 4 Sept recalled its high commissioner to South Africa and refused to attend 4-6 Sept World Economic Forum conference in Cape Town. In Nigeria, following reprisal attacks against South African businesses in capital Abuja and Lagos, South Africa 5 Sept closed diplomatic missions in those cities. Nigeria 11 Sept repatriated 189 citizens from South Africa and said over 600 expected to return. Air Tanzania 5 Sept cancelled flights from Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg and Zambia and Madagascar boycotted football matches in South Africa. President Ramaphosa mid-Sept deployed special envoys to affected countries to brief leaders on actions his govt was taking to address xenophobic violence. After army deployed in Cape Town in Aug to support local police combatting gang violence, govt 26 Sept said military presence would remain for additional three months.
In capital Pretoria, taxi drivers 27 Aug clashed with alleged drug dealers resulting in deadly shooting of one taxi driver. Next day taxi drivers led protests in central business district calling on govt to tackle problem of drug dealers; protests turned into riots with participants looting and setting alight several foreign-owned shops, police fired rubber bullets to disperse rioters and arrested eighteen. Group of Nigerians, angered by looting of shops some of which were Nigerian-owned, 29 Aug protested at Nigerian high commission.
Ahead of 8 May general elections, residents protested against lack of services early April in townships around Johannesburg and Tshwane, as well in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth; in several places protesters blocked roads and clashed with police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.
Following violent protests calling for his resignation in April, premier of North West province, Supra Mahumapelo, resigned as premier 23 May, but remained provincial African National Congress (ANC) chairman. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, unidentified gunmen ambushed and killed ANC activist Musawenkosi Mchunu 11 May and same day shot dead Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) councillor Sibuyiselo Dlamini.
Protests calling for resignation of premier of North West province, Supra Mahumapelo, accused of corruption and failing to deliver services, erupted in provincial capital Mahikeng 18 April and spread to several other towns; protesters burned tyres, looted and destroyed property, at least one person killed, over 100 arrested.
Relenting to pressure from ruling party African National Congress (ANC), President Zuma resigned 14 Feb. Next day parliament elected ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa to presidency. Ramaphosa introduced interim cabinet 26 Feb, replacing many Zuma loyalists.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa 18 Dec elected president of ruling African National Congress, succeeding President Zuma and beating former minister and former African Union chair Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma with 2,440 votes to 2,261.
President Zuma 8 Aug narrowly survived his ninth no confidence vote in parliament (198 to 177 votes in first secret ballot) amid rising public anger over allegations of corruption and state capture, and major splits within ruling African National Congress (ANC) party; over 30 ANC MPs voted for his removal. Vote preceded by large-scale anti-Zuma protests across country. Zuma faces further pressure including impeachment case at constitutional court early Sept and appeal case mid-Sept on whether to reinstate 783 fraud and corruption charges against him.
President Zuma 31 March replaced five cabinet ministers and nine deputy ministers; Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and other high-ranking members of ruling African National Congress criticised move, particularly sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Opposition parties same day requested parliament speaker to hold “no confidence” vote on Zuma.
Govt 19 Oct notified UN it will withdraw from ICC citing court’s alleged bias against Africa and claiming ICC obligations frustrate conflict prevention.
Violence continued in run-up to 3 Aug municipal elections: in KwaZulu-Natal province unidentified gunmen 18 July killed local candidate for ruling African National Congress (ANC); at least twelve other ANC members reported killed in last two months.
Inter- and intra-party violence and intimidation increased in run-up to 3 Aug local elections, affecting 80 locales in eight provinces. Ruling African National Congress (ANC)’s 20 June selection of Thoko Didiza, non-local former minister, as its mayoral candidate for Tshwane metro area outside Pretoria instead of current mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa sparked three days of violent protests, at least five people killed and many injured; residents said ANC leadership imposed mayoral candidate.
Surge in attacks against foreigners in Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng provinces following late-March speech by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini accusing them of stealing opportunities from South Africans; at least seven killed, thousands displaced, and over 300 arrested for involvement in attacks. Defence minister 21 April said soldiers deployed to help police restore order. Attacks met with regional condemnation: Malawi, Zimbabwe and Somalia repatriated nationals, Nigeria withdrew envoys from Pretoria.
Concerns over possible mass deportation of Zimbabweans living in South Africa illegally, after only 251,000 immigrants out of estimated more than 1 million applied for proper documentation by 31 Dec deadline.
ANC proposing new laws to create tribunal to regulate media and outlaw leaking or publication of information deemed classifiable by govt; media groups charge threats to press freedom.
Reports of attacks on migrant workers in Cape Town, Johannesburg townships saw deployment of police and army reinforcements to quell violence, with fears of repeat of 2008 deadly xenophobic attacks. Several injured, scores of Zimbabweans and other immigrants reportedly leaving country.
Troops withdrawn from Johannesburg, Cape Town townships as security situation stabilised after some 62 killed, 85,000 displaced in May wave of xenophobic violence; sporadic attacks in June. Most IDPs reportedly returned to neighbouring states. Govt 12 June announced plan to reintegrate some 20,000 remaining IDPs before closing camps in 2 months.
Brutal xenophobic violence against immigrants, mostly from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, erupted Alexandra township 11 May. Attacks spread in, around Johannesburg, Cape Town – eventually 7 of 9 SA provinces. Over 60 reported killed; some burnt alive. Number of displaced uncertain: reports of 70,000 fleeing, 33,000 to neighbouring states. Mozambique, Malawi evacuated citizens; Harare said sent buses to repatriate some 1,000. President Mbeki 18 May proposed inquiry into attacks; troops deployed 22 May to quell unrest – first such deployment since end apartheid. ANC officials, others called for Mbeki to step down. Govt began 31 May set up of temporary shelters, amid rising unrest in make-shift camps; special courts to prosecute attackers – over 1,300 reportedly arrested.
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