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South Africa

Yearbook 2015

South Africa. In January, the town of Soweto outside Johannesburg was shaken by xenophobic riots that claimed at least six people's lives and led to approximately 180 people being arrested by police. Hundreds of foreigners fled the area. The violence was triggered since teenagers tried to rob a store and the foreign owner shot one of them to death. The riots went on for a week and over 100 stores owned by foreigners in poor suburbs with high unemployment were looted.

2015 South Africa

The police were criticized for late intervention, and President Jacob Zuma was accused of not quickly and clearly enough to distance himself from the violence and xenophobia. His government proposed legislation that deprives foreigners of the right to own land in South Africa.

According to COUNTRYAAH, Zulukungen Goodwill Zwelithini held a speech in April criticizing foreigners, blaming them for growing crime and urging them to pack and return to their home countries. Many believed that this triggered the new riots, which then flared up when immigrants were attacked in Durban, Johannesburg and other cities. At least seven people were killed and more than 5,000 became homeless in new looting. According to the UN Refugee Commission, most affected refugees and asylum seekers left their home countries because of war and persecution.

President Zuma canceled a visit abroad to deal with the crisis. Perpetrators of the violence were arrested and prosecuted. The army was ordered to Johannesburg suburb Alexandra, where a Mozambican was stabbed to death. Police and military were then deployed to track illegal immigrants. In a few months, around 10,000 people were arrested for various crimes, and over 15,000 paperless immigrants were rejected. According to the authorities, many voluntarily chose to be sent home. Operation Fiela received criticism as "state-sponsored xenophobia".

The attacks on foreigners in South Africa led to counter-attacks in the migrants' home countries in Africa. In Mozambique, a border crossing was blocked and stones were thrown at South African cars. South African workers were evacuated for security reasons. South African companies were threatened in Nigeria with closure, and protests were held at South African embassies in a number of countries.

President Zuma was again challenged by his harshest critic, Julius Malema, who was excluded from the ANC (African National Congress) and founded the left-wing party EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters). In Parliament, Zuma's speech to the nation was interrupted by Malema, who demanded notice when Zuma would repay the tax money used for a contentious and expensive renovation of the private home. Malema and his party mates were swept away.

Harsh protests came from the opposition when the government announced in June that the state had no recourse to Zuma for the renovation of his luxury estate in KwaZulu-Natal. The police minister's decision went against the Ombudsman, who pointed out illegality and asked Zuma to reimburse part of the cost.

In August, a corruption indictment was filed against Malema on the grounds that the trial was postponed for too long, for three years. Malema had been charged with fraud, money laundering and extortion. The decision was a victory for Malema in the battle against President Zuma.

During the year, the Democratic Alliance (DA) elected a new leader, 34-year-old Mmusi Maimane, who thus became the party's first colored leader.

According to an investigation by the government, there were shortcomings in the police force behind 34 striking miners killed in Marikana in 2012. It was the worst police violence in the country since the apartheid era. The investigators, who were appointed by the president, acquitted the government of responsibility, but blame was placed on the mining company and on the trade unions' handling of the conflict.

The release of the government upset the victims' relatives and their lawyers who had accused Cyril Ramaphosa, vice president and leader of the ANC. Ramaphosa sat on the board of the mining company in 2012 and was alleged to have used his influence to push forward a strike from the police. However, according to investigators, there was no evidence that his intervention had affected the behavior of the police. As a result of the report, the country's police chief was suspended while her role in the shooting deaths was investigated.

The government's decision to raise tuition fees at state universities in October led to major student protests that many poor, black students would not be able to afford to continue their studies. Most of the protests were peaceful, but in Cape Town the police proceeded hard on students outside Parliament as well as in Pretoria outside the presidential office. The pressure from the students drove President Zuma to promise unchanged tuition fees for 2016. In Johannesburg, student demonstrations continued with demands for free education.

Thousands of protesters demanded President Zuma's resignation in December, after he kicked off the country's respected finance minister and caused turbulence in the financial market.

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