CW 28/2021: State of exception
Press Review 10 July 2021 to 16 July 2021

Riots in South Africa

Throughout the week, there has been massive rioting in South Africa following the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma. Especially in Zuma’s home region, the province of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as in the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, shops were looted, cars set on fire and shopping centres vandalised. The unrest has already claimed the lives of 117 people and over 2000 people have been arrested. Zuma had surrendered to the police last week after being sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court. Previously, Zuma had repeatedly defied a summons from the so-called Zondo Commission, questioning its legality. The commission is investigating the serious corruption allegations against the former head of state during his term in office from 2009 to 2018. Next Monday, Zuma’s application for the annulment of his prison sentence is to be considered by the Constitutional Court. To contain the violent protests and looting, the South African government called up the army and available reserve units, 25,000 soldiers were given marching orders, 10,000 of them had already been deployed by Thursday. In many places, however, the population was already organising itself in partly armed protection groups and community patrols to protect their belongings, but also to start clean-up operations. This Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke of politically organised acts of violence – twelve masterminds have been identified, one of whom has already been arrested. The scale of the violence, however, suggests that in addition to anger among Zuma’s supporters over his arrest, there was also popular discontent given the country’s difficult socio-economic situation. The Corona pandemic plunged South Africa into the worst recession in its history. Currently, the country is again in a severe level 4 lockdown due to a third wave, which has far-reaching economic, social and educational consequences for the population. Meanwhile, the vaccination rate is at an extremely low level. The current uprisings are now not only jeopardising pandemic response and vaccination progress due to the closure of testing and vaccination centres, but are also causing supply shortages of food, medicine and fuel in many parts of the country due to restricted goods transport and blocked roads. While the full extent of the economic impact cannot yet be assessed, South Africa’s neighbouring countries are also concerned about possible spillover effects.


Election results announced in Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s ruling party won a landslide victory in the landmark parliamentary election on 21 June. The Prosperity Party secured 410 of the 436 mandates up for grabs, the National Electoral Board (NEBE) announced on Saturday. In addition, the NEBE announced that due to irregularities , new elections had to be held in ten constituencies and in three others the ballots cast had to be recounted. Nevertheless, incumbent Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed can plan for another five-year term due to his party’s overwhelming majority in parliament. It is expected that a new government will be formed in October. In the parliamentary election, 38 million Ethiopians eligible to vote were called upon to determine the new members of parliament. Voter turnout was reported at just over 90%. However, the election was boycotted by large parts of the opposition (DAS Press Review Week 25). At the same time, 111 MP seats remain vacant for the time being, as the election could not be held as scheduled in one fifth of all 547 constituencies. This was due to both currently smouldering conflicts and logistical problems in many places. In some of these constituencies, the polls will be held on 6 September. In the disputed region of Tigray, however, there will be no elections at all for the time being. While the NEBE expressed overall satisfaction with the conduct of the election, the USA criticised it strongly, calling it neither free nor fair. In connection with the Tigray conflict, the UN-Human-Rights-Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution this week calling for an immediate end to all violence in Tigray. However, only 20 of the 47 members of the UNHRC voted in favour of adopting the resolution, which was introduced by the EU. Despite these events at the international level, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) captured the two towns of Alamata and Korem on Tuesday. Thus, the TPLF controls almost the entire southern Tigray and is now advancing into the bordering Amhara region. On Wednesday, Abiy Ahmed declared the end of his unilateral ceasefire (DAS Press Review week 26) and announced his intention to repel the new military offensive with all means at his disposal.


In other news

The Nigerian men’s basketball team (D’Tigers) has celebrated two remarkable victories in just three days in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. First, D’Tigers sensationally won against the USA with their NBA stars around Kevin Durant on Saturday. The USA had won the last two meetings by a total of 125 points. The current 90-87 victory was also the first ever win by an African team against the heavyweight in basketball. Led by their point guard Gabe Vincent of the Miami Heat, the Nigerians confirmed their performance from the weekend two days later by defeating world number four Argentina 94-71. The Nigerian basketball team are group opponents of the German team in Tokyo and can rely on seven NBA players, mainly from the Nigerian diaspora in the USA. After recent performances, hopes are growing for the first Olympic basketball medal for an African nation.

Press Overview
Press Review Archive