Trouble seldom arrives in the garb one expected. Sixteen months ago, in response to the coming pandemic, SA locked down in ways tailor-made to provoke the poor. People were shut into crowded townships under a military-style siege. Those who broke the rules were subjected to public humiliation. Millions were cut off from their livelihoods without adequate compensation. At the time I thought SA would be lucky to see out lockdown without a rebellion.

It turned out that circumstances mattered. People were afraid of the virus. People believed their government took such extreme measures because it was in the public interest. People were extraordinarily acquiescent...

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