“One of these days it’s going to happen to us, you can’t have so many people unemployed and poor, one day it’s going to trigger an uprising,” former president Thabo Mbeki said in late July. “That’s how that massive uprising happened in Tunisia, the problems were brewing beneath the surface and it needed a little spark.”
His language has been echoed by opposition leader Julius Malema.
“The violence that is going to happen in South Africa is because the elite is disappearing and the poor are becoming … poorer,” he told the BBC’s Hardtalk program a week later. “There’s going to be something that looks like an Arab Spring. That, we are guaranteed.”
He said such a movement would target white people and “black elites”. The MP, known for extreme views, has twice been convicted of hate speech.
While the idea of an Arab Spring-style uprising is questionable in South Africa, the government is clearly worried.
Last week, the army put hundreds of soldiers on standby amid fears of more violence.
A leaked internal memo said the country was “gradually deteriorating into unrest due to criminality that is taking place with the borders”.