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South Africa

Yearbook 2019

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 political corruption.

2019 South Africa

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.

According to 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 dissatisfaction.

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 to 28.

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 issue.

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 hoped.

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.

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