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Over the past few days our vulnerabilities came to bear all at once: a country with only a thin veneer of law and order; a rejection of the socio-economic status quo by the marginalised; intolerable and rising inequality and poverty; a police force weakened by budget cuts and austerity; and a weak and fractured governing party whose internal battles are profoundly destabilising.

This is the cocktail of elements that gave rise to the chaos that has gripped the country since former president Jacob Zuma’s arrest last Wednesday. The protests and looting are not the manifestation of a popular uprising to support Zuma, but the outcome of what happens when deep social tension and frustrations, kept (mostly) in check in daily life, are emboldened to confront what is in fact a weak state, run by a weak governing party...

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