South Africa social unrest warning

The Centre for Risk Analysis has warned that South Africa faces a winter of social unrest as sustained power outages limit economic growth and job creation.

The cost-of-living crisis and increasing political tensions ahead of elections scheduled for next year add further fuel to the fire.

Chris Hattingh, head of policy analysis at the Centre for Risk Analysis, said South Africa would likely be plagued by 43 weeks of severe blackouts.

The projection is based on the power utility’s latest energy outlook, which suggests it won’t be able to meet demand during any week through March next year.

Hattingh’s note comes as Eskom implemented stage 6 load-shedding until further notice after a generation unit at the Medupi power station broke down.

It means that South African businesses and households will face as much as 12 hours of blackouts a day.

Other experts have also said that South Africa should brace for riots and unrest because of a lack of economic growth.

Political analyst JP Landman and Nedbank’s chief economist Nicky Weimar said South Africans could expect another Marikana and July Riots in the future.

2023 will be the eighth year running where South Africa will have declining or stagnant per capita incomes.

With elevated inflation, particularly in consumer staples such as food and energy, fertile ground for social unrest has been laid in South Africa.

And so, there is the possibility for widespread unrest akin to July 2021. Just as that was unpredicted, it would be naive to think that it will not happen again if things do not change, said Weimar.

Dawie Roodt
Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt

Their fears echo those of Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt, who is concerned about rising poverty levels and poor economic growth.

Roodt said the high poverty levels and unemployment with rising food costs are a recipe for mass unrest and disorder. It puts South Africa on the brink of disaster.

“My biggest fear is that a spark can make the situation explode. It is a highly volatile situation waiting to explode,” he said.

Business Leadership South Africa’s CEO, Busi Mavuso, said in February that South Africa faces an “Arab Spring-like revolt” if the government does not take decisive action. 

Mavuso says that “we are in deep trouble” and “need meaningful and targeted interventions that will ensure we don’t end up in the doldrums and we don’t end up as another failed African state”.

Allianz’s Social Risk Index (SRI) has also identified South Africa as “highly vulnerable to social unrest in the next 18 months”. 

Reporting with Bloomberg.


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