October 2, 2023

Common Wealth Geography

Exploring the World

South Africa Sends Military as Trucks Burn and Unrest Looms Over Ex-President’s Trial

South Africa has dispatched its military across four provinces in response to a spree of arson that saw 21 delivery trucks engulfed in flames on national roads across the country within just five days.In a bid to restore stability, South Africa has taken the measure of deploying military personnel to four of its provinces, responding to a series of destructive incidents where 21 delivery trucks were deliberately set ablaze over a five-day period. This action comes at a time when concerns are mounting about potential social upheaval related to a recent court decision that could potentially result in the re-incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma.

This deployment of armed forces was promptly executed following a pivotal ruling by South Africa’s highest legal authority, the Constitutional Court, deeming the early medical parole release of Jacob Zuma in 2021 as void. The future decision of the Department of Corrections regarding Zuma’s possible return to prison for his 15-month contempt of court sentence remains uncertain. Nevertheless, Zuma’s initial imprisonment two years ago was a catalyst for a week of intense protests marked by violence, leaving over 350 fatalities. This upheaval was among the most severe instances of civil unrest in South Africa’s recent history.

Authorities are yet to establish a direct connection between the truck burnings and the previous unrest in 2021 or to Jacob Zuma himself. However, the implications of the court’s decision on Zuma’s case have certainly heightened tensions within the country. The spate of truck burnings reportedly began on a significant date, the second anniversary of the commencement of the 2021 protests.Currently aged 81, Jacob Zuma is not present in South Africa, having traveled to Russia for undisclosed medical treatment. His spokesperson, Mzwanele Manyi, has not provided a specific date for Zuma’s anticipated return. While previous incidents of truck burnings have served as protests against inadequate governmental service provision, the scale of destruction witnessed within this week is notably exceptional.

The 2021 riots had a profound impact on South Africa’s well-developed economy, which is often regarded as a democratic cornerstone within the African continent. These events constituted one of the most significant instances of civil unrest since the end of apartheid in 1994. Investigations are still ongoing, attempting to unveil the orchestrators behind what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to destabilize the government.The Department of Corrections has not clarified whether Zuma will be re-incarcerated following his failed appeal, or whether the time spent on medical parole will be considered as time served for his sentence. The outcome of these pending decisions holds significant implications for South Africa’s social and political landscape.