AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - A country marked by unemployment, crime and xenophobia is preparing for the elections

Saturday, 25 May 2024 elections   corruption   unemployment   criminality   xenophobia  

Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - High unemployment is weighing on many South Africans in the run-up to the general elections next May 29. The problem was described as a “time bomb” by the UN as early as 2022. With 25 million people dependent on welfare benefits, South Africa faces enormous inequalities that cause enormous frustration for the majority of the population. The residents of rural areas and townships in South Africa's major cities in particular suffer from the lack of jobs and life prospects. With one in three South Africans unemployed in one of the world's most unequal societies, foreigners in particular have generally become a target. This has given rise to a xenophobic movement against migrants from other African countries, which began in the township of Soweto in 2021 under the name “Operation Dudula” and has now spread across the country. Within two years, “Operation Dudula” has transformed from a more or less spontaneous movement into a political party, which, however, cannot take part in the elections because it was excluded by the electoral commission for not having respected the deadline for the presentation of the list of candidates. At the head of the movement is Zandile Dabula, who has embraced the hostility of ghetto residents against foreigners who allegedly "steal jobs, trade adulterated food and drugs." Assumptions that are refuted by statistics (e.g., according to the Minister of Justice, immigrants represented 8.5% of all people convicted in 2019 and 7.1% in 2020), but that of the party in power since 1994, the African National Congress (ANC), which, according to its critics, has transformed itself from a beacon of the struggle against apartheid into a corrupt and patronizing apparatus whose policies have worsened the situation of "black" South Africans. Other problems they face, as do the rest of the population, include frequent power outages and high levels of violent crime, which recently claimed the lives of two foreign-born Catholic priests. Zambian Father William Banda of the St. Patrick's Society for Foreign Missions (Kiltegan Fathers) was shot dead while preparing to celebrate Holy Mass in the Cathedral of Tzaneen (see Fides, 14/3/2024). Father Paul Tatu Mothobi of the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Stigmatiners) from Lesotho was killed on April 27 in South Africa (see Fides, 30/4/2024). On the occasion of this second murder, the local bishops issued a statement saying that the murder of the two priests came "in a context of growing concern about the increasing disregard for the value of life, where people are being killed arbitrarily." South Africa's murder rate in 2022-2023 was 45 murders per 100,000 population, while in the United States it was 6.3 per 100,000 population and in most European countries it was just one murder. This has resulted, among other things, in private security services being one of the few sectors where the number of new hires is increasing. There are 2.7 million private security officers compared to just 150,000 police officers in a population of 62 million. The May 29 election therefore represents a challenge for the African National Congress, which a significant proportion of its voters could turn their backs on after 30 years of interrupted power marked by massive corruption. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 25/5/2024)