The social unrest experienced in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal last month has created huge debates in society. There is no consensus, even amongst security cluster cabinet members, on the underlying causes. Yet, citizens have felt the socio-economic and political consequences of the social instability.

Narrow security dimensions feature prominently in divergent explanations for the riots, with political insurrection and domestic terrorism topping the list. These perspectives provide a partial view on a ‘poly-crisis’, which we argue straddles the ‘socio-economic’,  political’ and  ‘national questions’.

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