South Africa

Political violence warning for South Africa 

South Africa’s upcoming elections pose the greatest risk for political violence since the advent of democracy in the early nineties.

This is according to BMI’s associate director of operational risk, Derrick Botha, at the organisation’s pre-election webinar on 15 May.

South Africans are set to head to the polls on 29 May, where the ruling ANC faces losing its majority for the first time since it took power 30 years ago.

If the ANC loses its majority, many expect it to form a coalition with opposition parties to remain in power.

There are many candidates for an ANC coalition, and the ruling party’s choice will largely depend on the size of its vote in the upcoming elections.

In the BMI election webinar, the organisation said it believes the ANC will lose its majority but will remain the main policy driver in South Africa by forming a coalition with smaller parties.

However, alternative scenarios include the ANC scraping a slim majority, an ANC-EFF coalition, and a win by the opposition coalition, the Multi-Party Charter.

“While any coalition groupings will pose headwinds to policymaking, negatively impacting investor sentiment, an ANC-EFF coalition would likely result in a significantly adverse market reaction, negatively impacting bond yields and the rand,” BMI said.

While South Africa has historically had very peaceful elections, Botha said these upcoming elections present the highest risk of political violence since the advent of democracy in South Africa.

He said this risk is largely heightened by newcomer uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the party led by former President Jacob Zuma.

If the MK Party does not accept the outcome of May’s elections, this could lead to mass unrest across South Africa, similar to the July riots in 2021.

The immediate cause of the July riots was Zuma’s imprisonment for contempt of court, and the unrest was concentrated in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

However, what began as protests in support of Zuma quickly spiralled into wider riots and looting, as underlying economic grievances, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, likely played a part.

The riots were the worst violence South Africa had witnessed since the end of Apartheid. Hundreds of people died, thousands were arrested, and billions of dollars in damages were incurred. 

Botha said these riots showed the willingness of many Zuma supporters to resort to violence.

Therefore, this willingness could again be showcased if the former President’s party does not accept the election results this year.


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