Ron Hutchcraft once remarked: “Discontentment is the mortal enemy of peace — a deep root of stress and restlessness.” The violent and vociferous protests that paralysed the South Africa’s economy and triggered political imbroglio over the past weeks has died down. However, the deep-seated and endemic inequality remains.
The looting and shooting that left more than 200 people dead and over 2,000 others arrested was ostensibly triggered by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma for 15 months for contempt of court for failing to appear at a court hearing in February.
The truth of the matter, however, is that the violent demonstrations that rocked Durban and KwaZulu-Natal Province was not only caused by the Constitutional Court’s verdict but that half of South Africans live below the poverty line. Unemployment stands at 32.6 per cent. Worse, unemployment and poverty have become the lot of many youth.
The unemployment is a direct result of economic recession. Since Apartheid fell in 1994, many citizens have not experienced the expected economic emancipation. Most lands are still in the hands of the white minority yet the native black Africans are landless.
The economic woes have been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has left many helpless and vulnerable to the economic shocks.
Past regimes’ promise to restore the economy to full strength has remained a mirage, hence the desperation, hopelessness and widespread disillusionment.
Notably, crime and unemployment are intertwined. Little wonder that when Zuma was jailed, many unemployed youth could not hesitate to plunder supermarkets or engage in hooliganism.
The panacea to this economic inequality is a well-educated workforce, widespread infrastructure and pragmatic allocation of resources. “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul,” said George Bernard Shaw.
Mr Muthama is a business management and strategic management lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), consultant, and author. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.