The political-cum-socioeconomic uprising was enabled by the weakness of the South African state. The feeble state then interfaced with a long-standing popular culture of lawlessness and the ANC government’s practice of “soft law” against citizens and factions. Soft law refers to the ANC’s reluctance to act against citizens breaking the law for fear of this causing alienation and lack of electoral support.
At the core of South Africa’s July uprising was the political spark of “Free Zuma”. It has been taking shape since the pre-Polokwane times when former president Jacob Zuma and his cohort planned and executed the takeover of ANC and South African state power. A few years of rule by President Cyril Ramaphosa have not defused this political catalyst.