The case of South Africa demonstrates what happens to a political system when the pillars of political authority — trust and legitimacy — crumble, but do not collapse entirely. It speaks to the fusion of the two universes of current South African politics: the attrition of the African National Congress that meets the new world that Covid politics brought and which overlays the dulling of the ANC.

Authority is taken as the power held by a party or government to rule and be obeyed, and acceptance by people that this entity has the right to claim obedience to its rules and laws. This authority is undergirded by political trust and legitimacy. As Carl Fox observed in a 2015 writing, “unless people are prepared to obey, there is no way to manage a modern state in all its complexity”. The ANC government instead is in an era of frequent popular disregard and disdain, rather than obedience and trust.

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