South Africa

South Africa has emerged as a major power on the continent since the end of white minority rule in 1994. Its size, relative stability and the moral authority won through the long anti-apartheid struggle give it unusual weight in African and international diplomacy. Nonetheless, the ruling African National Congress has lost some of its lustre after a decade of economic mismanagement and corruption that has eroded much of the state’s infrastructure. The country has lately experienced severe unrest due largely to persistent crime, joblessness and inequality exacerbated by COVID-19 lockdowns. Through reporting and analysis, Crisis Group tracks indicators of social conflict in the country, advocating for economic reform, while pushing Pretoria to assume a bigger role on the regional stage.

CrisisWatch South Africa

Unchanged Situation

Tight general elections held as ruling African National Congress (ANC) projected to lose majority; dispute over Zuma’s eligibility increased risk of unrest. 

Polls held as ANC projected to lose majority for first time. General elections took place 29 May as voting day went peacefully, with high voter turnout expected to be reported; full results announced in June. Amid heightened tensions in lead-up to vote, Constitutional Court 20 May barred former President Zuma, leader of newcomer uMkhonto weSizwe party (MKP), from contesting polls due to his 2021 conviction for contempt of court; decision overturned Electoral Court’s April ruling permitting Zuma to run. MKP alleged that Independent Electoral Commission and Constitutional Court colluded with ANC to rig elections. MKP members 25 May broke into ballot storage sites in Chesterville and Hammarsdale towns in KwaZulu-Natal province, alleging voting material had been altered, and also threatened election officer in Chesterville; electoral commission condemned incidents. President Ramaphosa 26 May listed govt achievements in speech on South African Broadcasting Corporation, prompting MKP and opposition Democratic Alliance to each file urgent affidavit in Electoral Court accusing Ramaphosa of violating electoral code of conduct by using presidential office to influence elections outcome; Ramaphosa 29 May said he merely provided update on country’s state of readiness for elections. 

Ruling party members clashed with opposition supporters. ANC members and supporters 19 May clashed with members of populist opposition Economic Freedom Fighters during ANC campaign event in Seshego township, Limpopo province, as rival party members reportedly threw stones escalating into exchange of gunfire that wounded two bystanders. Electoral Commission 23 May convened both parties to diffuse tensions in area ahead of polls. Suspected political dispute between ANC and MKP members 26 May in Kathlehong township, Gauteng province, resulted in two MKP members shot and killed. 

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