Eighteen months after the anarchy of July 2021, the identities of those who planned the widespread violence and looting remain unknown. Those unprecedented events cost more than 354 lives and an estimated R50 billion in economic damage. Most of the several dozen arrests made have been of alleged instigators. Sixty-one people charged with crimes linked to violence and arson recently appeared in court, with the state announcing it would also apply to charge them with terrorism. Bail for those accused was extended until May 2023, suggesting that the wait for any further revelations will be a long one.

But the information that has come to light about the July mayhem reveals that serious problems in policing and intelligence facilitated the wave of destruction. This is the argument of my recent working paper, Beyond Protest: Violence, Looting and Anarchy in July 2021, published by the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection.

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