It’s always stupid to throw a lit cigarette stub into the brush. Usually nothing happens. In a drought, however, it can explode into a wildfire that threatens lives and houses. In that case, the police should certainly track down and charge the person who lit the flame. But unless communities work together to build fire resistance there will always be another spark to set off catastrophe.

Similarly, SA has to ask not only who instigated the recent insurrection, but why so many people were willing to participate in the looting and destruction that followed. The difference in the diagnosis is critical. If we blame security failures the answer is to improve intelligence and bulk up policing on the street. The logical conclusion is to call for the army to deploy on a mass scale, presumably to throw a ring of steel around the townships, or for the relatively well-off to form their own (sometimes murderous) militias...

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