South Africa is experiencing its worst unrest since the end white minority rule or the apartheid in 1994. Riots and looting have spread to several cities after the ex president of South Africa Jacob Zuma was sentenced to fifteen months of jail time after contempt of court.
Jacob Zuma has been found guilty on one charge of racketeering, twelve counts of fraud, and several corruption charges including the $25 million of taxpayers money used for home renovations.
Jacob Zuma was the president of South Africa from 2009-2018. He belongs to the Zulu tribe which is the largest ethnic community of South Africa. The citizens believe that the jailing of Jacob Zuma is an attack on their community because he was revered as a “man of the people” by most South Africans.
What is the Indian connection to the unrest?
“Guptagate” was an incident dubbed by the South African media after an immediate outcry and massive protests in 2013 when an air base Waterkloof near Pretoria made for use only by visiting heads of states and diplomatic delegates was instead used to transport guests for the wedding of one of the relatives of the Gupta family via a charter plane.
The three Gupta brothers Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh Gupta own many businesses in South Africa including coal mines, computer manufacturing business, newspapers and a media outlet. Many South Africans have used the three brothers of meddling with various elections in South Africa and the ex-president Jacob Zuma is also known to favour the Gupta family.
The Gupta family was also accused of favouritism in filling cabinet posts when they advised Jacob Zuma to elect Mcebisi Hubert Jonas as the deputy finance minister in 2016. Mr. Zuma is known to have very close connections with the Billionaire Gupta family.
How did the unrest disrupt peace in South Africa?
More than 70 people have been killed and over a thousand injured since the protest began last week over the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma. Most of the protest is taking place in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), but the looting and rioting has also spread to other provinces like Gauteng, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.
The mayor of Ethekwini, a municipality that includes Durban, estimated that 15 billion rand ($1 billion) had been lost in damage to property and another billion in loss of stock.(reuters)
Due to the “Guptagate” and ex-president Zuma’s connection with the Gupta family many Indian shops and commercial buildings have been specifically targeted. Apart from the Zulu tribe, Indians form the second biggest community in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
The South African government plans to deploy additional 25,000 troops as the police and security forces have been stretched thin in quelling the riots and looting spread across various provinces.
Meanwhile Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma has urged rioters and looters to “loot carefully and responsibly” on Instagram. This shows Duduzane’s commitment to the Zulu tribe, his father and the whole of South Africa. In a sense if given a chance Duduzane Zuma could be a better president than his father!