South Africa

Political violence warning in South Africa as elections near

South Africa’s national election on 29 May has the potential to be a flashpoint for political violence, with it set to be the most fiercely contested election in the country’s history. 

This is feedback from the team at Allianz Commercial, which said that security and stability are major concerns in many countries having elections in 2024. 

Allianz said the ‘super-cycle’ of 2024 elections, with nearly half the world going to the polls, threatens localised unrest as well as broader geopolitical tension. 

As unrest can now spread more quickly and widely, thanks in part to social media, financial costs from such events for companies and insurers are mounting. 

“So many elections in one year raise concerns about the fueling of polarisation, with tensions potentially playing out in heightened civil unrest,” said Srdjan Todorovic, Head of Political Violence and Hostile Environment Solutions at Allianz. 

The headline election will be in the US in November, when a narrow result could inflame existing tensions. 

European Parliamentary elections in June could also deepen divisions if radical-right parties gain votes and seats. 

“Polarisation and unrest within societies are fueled by fear. They undermine trust in institutions and challenge people’s sense of a common purpose built on shared values,” Todorovic explained. 

“We also expect to see increased unrest around environmental issues in the future, not only from activists but also from those who are pushing back against government climate mitigation policies.”

Allianz said the South African elections in May are a potential flashpoint for localised unrest and political violence. 

Polls indicate votes for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) could dip below 50%, forcing it into a coalition – a first at the national level – after being in power for 30 years. 

“South Africa suffers from high unemployment, particularly among the young, and significant wealth inequality,” says Etienne Cheret, Regional Practice Group Leader, Crisis Management France and Africa at Allianz Commercial. 

“Crime, corruption, and blackouts have caused widespread frustration. There is already a high level of disillusionment among the population, so we are watching the situation very closely.”

SASRIA CEO Mpumi Tyikwe

Allianz’s concerns echo those of the South African Special Risk Insurance Association (SASRIA) CEO, Mpumi Tyikwe.

The uncertainty surrounding South Africa’s upcoming elections could risk a repeat of the 2021 July riots, and businesses should prepare accordingly, Tyikwe warned

While South Africa is a lot more prepared for the possibility of unrest this year than for the July riots, Tyikwe said some areas of the country may still be “bumpy”.

He advised businesses in the country to get insured with SASRIA to protect themselves from unexpected events that may stem from the elections.

In addition, he urged businesses to invest in awareness campaigns about the credibility and integrity of the country’s elections.

“What’s going to create violence is when people do not accept the outcome of the results. So we have to invest in making sure that that process is credible,” he explained.

However, Tyikwe said the country is far more prepared for these types of concerns than in 2021.

He said SASRIA has engaged with the government’s security cluster, who have shown that they are more prepared than in 2021. 

“There are, of course, certain areas of the country where you might experience a problem, and you need to deploy your resources in those particular areas,” he said. 

Based on the outcome of the July 2021 riots, he said Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are potential “hotspots”.

“Generally though, I think the elections will go well given our history and the state of preparedness, plus the fact that we shouldn’t have any reason to doubt the credibility and the ability of the IEC to run good elections.”


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