In theory, the dual purpose relief package the government has put in place in response to the unrest and the continued lockdown will be neutral for the public purse, in that extra spending will be offset by extra revenue. In practice, the package, modest as it is, is not without cost. And there are risks that could make it more costly over coming years.

Not that there was an option to do nothing. President Cyril Ramaphosa had put SA back into hard lockdown for Covid’s third wave without reinstating the special “relief of distress” grant or temporary unemployment insurance that had buffered vulnerable households through earlier waves. There had long been calls for him to do something: the unrest triggered a response, and to that was added a fairly modest unrest-related sum, to boost army and police budgets, provide relief for uninsured small businesses and backstop state-owned riot insurer Sasria...

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