Riots in South Africa and role of BRICS

Zuma has been accused of money laundering and corruption, among many other charges during his term as president from 2009 to 2018.

Riots in South Africa and role of BRICS
Supporters of Zuma not only blocked roads and highways but also used burnt tires and other objects as obstacles which has resulted in many casualties. (Photo source: Reuters)

By Dr Neha Sinha, 

The recent riots in South Africa have come in the wake of former President Jacob Zuma getting imprisoned for 15 months for defamation of the court. Zuma has been accused of money laundering and corruption, among many other charges during his term as president from 2009 to 2018. His former cabinet ministers including high-ranking government officials and executives have also exposed him to past scandals and corruption. After being taken into custody, Zuma’s supporters ran riot in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal which further spread to other provinces of South Africa. Supporters of Zuma not only blocked roads and highways but also used burnt tires and other objects as obstacles which has resulted in many casualties. Linked to him are the three Gupta brothers of Johannesburgh who have, as per reports, escaped to UAE.

Although Zuma is no longer the President of South Africa, his supporters have turned offensive after his surrender to police. The large-scale looting and rioting has resulted in well over 100 deaths, loot and damage of goods worth $1 billion US Dollars. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of rioting and loot, the South African Police and authorities have been forced to call in the Army. Many analysts believe that as there prevails a large scale unemployment in the country and many restrictions due to chronic pandemic – Zuma’s arrest is only the trigger for unfolding of the underlying anger.

A large community of Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) living in the country has also been targeted. This has implications for India. There are many South Africans who believe that “Jacob Zuma sold the country to Indian Monopoly Capital”. The government of India has extended its assistance to Indians in South Africa as they are the main targets. In a desperate attempt to protect their home and businesses from looting, Indians have now stepped up their fight against the arsonists and looters. Interestingly, two-thirds of the 1.4 million strong Indian-origin population of South Africa lives and works in the KwaZulu-Natal province in Durban. The riots have also tarnished the international image of South Africa as a rainbow nation. Apart from damage to life and property, the impact of these loose mobs moving through streets is going to adversely impact South Africa’s fight against COVID. Needless to say, if these riots are not controlled soon, there would be adverse implications for South Africa as a BRICS country.

With the escalation of riots, violence and looting; the issue has gained worldwide attention, and as South Africa is part of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), much is expected from the BRICS countries. South Africa and other member countries of BRICS have agreed to collaborate in various international forums such as the United Nations, India, Brazil, South Africa Dialogue and the G-20 group which can help in bringing peace to the region. Recently, at the BRICS Labour and Employment Ministers’ Declaration, the five nations of BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa resolved to recover with stronger national economies, inclusive labour markets and social protection systems. India’s union minister for labour and employment Bhupender Yadav chaired the virtual BRICS meeting under India’s presidency.

With the rise in violence, the alliance with BRICS must be strengthened to establish peace in the country. South Africa can benefit from the agreement that’s made between the BRICS nations like that of providing development and financial assistance in time of need, providing security and justice when any nation is in a state of turmoil. South Africa remains dedicated to African Unity and integrates with the structure of the African Union, which focuses on the “strengthening of continental institutions, which are critical in responding to the challenges of poverty, underdevelopment, peace, security and stability on the continent”. In the present scenario, it is imperative that BRICS countries ensure peace in the country. The South Africa government should take steps to curb violence of such magnitude. They should focus on BRICS as a major regional organisation which can help in bringing peace to the region. BRICS is not just an economics based association but it has always focused on the political atmosphere in each of the countries as well. Any kind of violence would give rise to instability in South Africa and it would directly affect all the other BRICS nations too. Therefore, it is very important for BRICS nations to take into consideration matters like these seriously.

Today, it is important for the BRICS countries to promote stability, economic growth, diversity and stop racial discrimination which is prevalent in South Africa. If the problems are not taken seriously, it may lead to the downfall of South Africa’s ranking in Ease of Doing Business Index or investments from foreign companies. Companies in BRICS countries wouldn’t be further willing to expand business in South Africa, which would again affect the overall principles of BRICS association.

South Africa, an integral part of BRICS, has been considered to be the entry point for all developmental initiatives in the African continent. In light of this, South Africa needs to tread ahead cautiously. The government should take appropriate measures to curb the current riots along with other political bottlenecks soon. BRICS as an organisation should support South Africa in all its endeavours in regaining the much sought after social, political and economic stability and come up as an example for other strife-stricken African countries.

(The author is a Doctorate from Center for African Studies, JNU, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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First published on: 19-07-2021 at 12:59 IST