South Africa. For several years there had been debate
about introducing minimum wage in South Africa. At New Year,
it came into force with 20 rand (just over SEK 13) per hour
or 3,500 rand a month. Millions of South Africans were thus
paid a salary increase, but the union felt that the level
was too low. Demonstrations were held in a number of cities
at the beginning of the year with thousands of participants
protesting against high unemployment, over 27% for all and
over 50% for young adults. The protests also applied to
In February, the new Prosecutor General Shamila Batohi,
who was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, took office.
The task of combating corruption was sensitive in the ruling
African National Congress (ANC), where former President
Jacob Zuma and his allies were accused of a bribery culture.
CountryAAH, the party was hard pressed for the parliamentary
elections in May, and public opinion support failed. The
situation worsened when the heavily indebted state-owned
electricity company Eskom switched off the power again and
again to save the worn-out power grid. It created great
problems in society and aroused popular anger. Zuma's allies
were blamed for Eskom's problems, and allegations of
corruption were investigated. The electricity crisis
affected the economy, and the currency fell in value.
Another difficult crisis was a growing xenophobia with
violent riots and looting. Several people were killed in
March in KwaZulu-Natal, and migrants fled for their lives
from South Africa. In unemployment and poverty, the 3-4
million migrants in the country became targets for
Ramaphosa and the ANC promised new jobs before the
election and reduced gaps between blacks and whites, but the
party's credibility was low. A natural disaster in April
exacerbated the problems. About 70 people died in floods and
landslides following heavy rain on the east coast. Many had
to leave their homes, and visitors at an Easter show in
KwaZulu-Natal were killed as the church collapsed.
The deep dissatisfaction meant that over half of all
young people under 30 did not vote in the May elections.
Among the young people who voted were many Economic Freedom
Fighters (EFF) and its charismatic leader Julius Malema, who
attacked the ANC from the left with promises of free
education, better jobs, higher wages and land reform without
compensation to white owners.
The ANC went back in the election to 57.5% of the vote,
the party's worst result so far. The ANC received 230 seats,
a loss of 19. The same number won the EFF, which increased
to 49 seats in Parliament. But the second largest party
became the Liberal Democratic Alliance (DA) with 84 seats.
Inkatha took 14 seats and the Freedom Front 10.
Ramaphosa's new government had as many women as men,
which was historic. The number of ministers was lost from 36
After the election came a long awaited report on the
sensitive land reform. According to the expert group, the
constitution should be amended so that land can be
compulsorily redeemed without compensation. White farmers in
the group protested, which showed the explosiveness of the
In July, the military deployed to strengthen the police
against growing gang violence in Cape Town. In the first
half of the year, around 2,000 people had been killed in the
Western Cape Province, mainly in the poor townships which
are a legacy of the apartheid era.
In July, President Zuma was put before the State
Commission, which he appointed himself to investigate
corruption. However, Zuma refused to answer questions orally
and the hearing had to be in writing.
In August, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the
government to decriminalize sex work in South Africa.
According to HRW, sex workers are threatened with rape,
robbery and other abuses as they try to earn their living in
unsafe environments hidden from the police.
Attacks on migrants continued. In August, HRW warned that
South African truck drivers have killed more than 200
foreign colleagues who were attacked with stones, knives and
firearms for a year and a half.
In September, violence broke out in Johannesburg, where
foreign store owners were attacked and at least twelve
people were killed. Stores were looted and burned. More than
400 violent perpetrators were arrested by police. In
Pretoria, similar violence occurred.
Nigerians in particular were vulnerable. Nigeria canceled
its participation in an economic forum in South Africa, and
hundreds of Nigerians flew home. President Ramaphosa
condemned the violence, and his envoy in Nigeria made an
apology. It was also decided that the President of Nigeria
would visit South Africa for talks on the crisis.
In hopes of curbing the violence, the government banned
the employment of foreign nationals without work permits.
Violence against women in the country triggered
outrageous protests in September, after a young woman was
raped and murdered in a post office. Every day, 110 rapes
are reported, and every three hours a woman is murdered.
Many rapes are committed by police.
An angry crowd outside Parliament evicted the president,
who a few hours later declared the violence against women a
national crisis. Speaking to the nation, he promised harsher
punishment for murder and rape. He also said that records of
convicted sex offenders could become public.
In October, the DA's party leader Mmusi Maimane resigned
after internal battles in the party. As a result, the
traditionally white party lost its first black leader. The
DA had not succeeded in attracting black voters as one
South Africa's popular national team The Springboks
became world champions in rugby in November, triggering
cheer scenes in a troubled country. It created a sense of
unity in an otherwise divided nation.