South Africa. The year was dominated by a political tug
of war between President Jacob Zuma and his critics, who
wanted to get him dismissed with charges of corruption.
When Zuma was to give his annual speech to the nation in
February, there was chaos in parliament, as the left party
members of the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) disrupted the
president and then marched in protest.
The government's problems were exacerbated by growing
student protests at several universities. The students now
demanded free education, since the previous year forced Zuma
not to raise tuition fees for 2016. The fees prevented many
poor blacks from entering the universities. In February,
some universities temporarily closed down after buildings
were set on fire. Police used tear gas to disperse the
In March, Parliament held a vote of no confidence against
Zuma after the opposition accused him of careless handling
of the economy. However, Zuma won the vote.
Unemployment was estimated at close to 2%, and GDP growth
appeared to be less than 1% during the year. The country was
plagued by severe drought, described as the worst in a
century. The harvest fell sharply and several million tonnes
of maize had to be imported.
In March, serious allegations against the president came
about ties to an influential business empire, Gupta, where
Jacob Zuma's son sat on several boards. The Gupta family is
said to have influenced, among other things, the appointment
of the Minister of Finance and the dismissal of the chairman
of the state's energy company. Zuma and Gupta denied the
accusations, and after a crisis meeting in the ANC (African
National Congress, see
Abbreviationfinder.org), Zuma continued to gain confidence from
However, the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma
violated the Constitution by failing to comply with the
request of Public Protector (corresponding to JK) to repay
state funds equivalent to SEK 4.5 million used for private
purposes in renovating Zuma's residence. Criticism against
Zuma also came from within the ANC, and the president
acknowledged that he had broken the law. The opposition
wanted to put Zuma before the national court, but the
proposal fell in Parliament. Zuma repaid the money during
The Supreme Court ordered prosecutors to resume
corruption charges against Zuma which had been closed in
2009 and which involved arms deals, including the purchase
of Swedish JAS Gripen. The Supreme Court ruling was
appealed, but the appeal was dismissed.
When Zuma presented the budget in May, it again became
chaotic in Parliament and guards had to remove protesting
EFF members. Two weeks later, there was a riot again and the
EFF threatened to disturb the president every time he spoke
Before the country's local elections, the political
contradictions increased. In the Pretoria area, two people
were killed in violent quarrels between supporters of
candidates for the mayor's post. The police arrested many.
In Johannesburg, demonstrations were held outside the
state broadcaster SABC, which was accused of favoring the
ruling party ANC and opposing the opposition to the local
elections. The SABC had dismissed several journalists who
objected to the management's policy.
The local elections in August were a severe setback for
the ANC, which had its worst result after the apartheid era.
The party declined sharply but still received a total of
over 55% of the vote nationally. The DA (Democratic
Alliance) gained just over 24%, while the newcomer EFF
performed strongly and took just over 8%. The ANC lost power
in several cities.
In September, the government proposed increased tuition
fees by up to 8% in 2017. This triggered new student
protests with violence between security guards and
protesters. The police used tear gas, rubber bullets and
water cannons. Johannesburg's great Wits University was shut
down due to unrest, and as they tried to open, new violence
ensued. The government promised extra billions to the
universities, but rejected the requirement for free
education, citing budgetary needs in health care and
In October, a controversial preliminary investigation was
launched against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan with
suspicions of illegal tax monitoring during his time as head
of the tax authority. He was also charged with embezzlement.
Gordhan denied and saw the prosecution as political, caused
by his work against corruption, often in violation of Zuma's
Gordhan received support from the business community and
from leading ANC politicians. The party's group leader in
Parliament called on Zuma and the entire party leadership to
step down. However, the charge against the finance minister
Zuma tried to delay a report by Public Protector on his
ties to the Gupta financial family with the help of a court.
However, the report went public and demanded that a judge
investigate allegations that the Gupta brothers had
influenced the appointment of ministers. Protesters outside
the president's office demanded his departure, and they were
met by police tear gas and water cannons.
In October, South Africa decided to leave the
International Criminal Court (ICC), which the opposition
party DA appealed to the Constitutional Court. Human rights
organizations have accused South Africa of dishonoring
justice and lowering the credibility of the ICC.