One of the ironies of SA is the recurring fear of a rising tide of popular disorder that breaks everything down. Yet since union in 1910 the greater risks by far have always been systematic and orderly, and always the orderly and systematic intrusion of the state into people’s lives. The effects over the past century have been devastating, yet for all the terrible human and material costs people adjusted after a fashion, if only because there was seldom much else to be done. This was remarkably, almost incredibly, true of the bulk of society even at the height of the insurgency of the 1980s. By and large, the same is true today though, as we are a democracy, with less justification. And chiefly because it remains true that rather than a rising tide of popular disorder, SA’s risks in 2019, very like those of the past, are found in the same fastidious and methodical exertion of state power. The absence of revolt might actually be the problem, a complacency Justice Malala warned of las...

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