As much as Jacob Zuma is on trial, so is Cyril Ramaphosa

Ideas

As much as Jacob Zuma is on trial, so is Cyril Ramaphosa

Faced with ongoing challenges, local elections look set to be a referendum on the president’s tenure

Bobby Ghosh

After SA’s week from hell, the trial of Jacob Zuma has been postponed until August 10 and it will be months, perhaps even years, before a judicial panel decides whether the former president is guilty of corruption. His successor faces far swifter judgment in the court of public opinion.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is scrambling to undo the damage, physical and political, wrought by the widespread rioting in which more than 210 people died. Though the trigger for the violence was the jailing of Zuma for contempt of court, it soon became clear the anger was rooted as much in economics as politics. 

SA is one of the world’s most unequal societies. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the top 20% of the population receives more than 68% of income, compared with 47% for an index of emerging markets. Joblessness is at crisis levels: only 15 million people out of a working-age population of 39,5 million are formally employed. The coronavirus pandemic, in addition to killing more than 66,000 South Africans, has deepened economic anxieties, some of which were reflected in last week’s rampage...

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