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Electricity Price Hikes Spark Violence in South Africa, Resulting Protests Indicate Deeper Problems

Jackie Lacroix | Manager of Data and Insights

On July 12th, our analysts at groundTruth Global reported ongoing violent protests over electricity price hikes and local government corruption in Kimberley, South Africa. The unrest resulted in the looting of shops, burning of buildings, and the use of stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas by the responding police officers. At groundTruth Global, we recognize this not only as an immediate threat to public security and local businesses but also as a potential persistent threat to business continuity in the country due to the rising trend of protests related to service provision and housing issues. Reports indicate that nearly all businesses in the city shut down as a result of the unrest.


The level of violence accompanying the July 12th protests in Kimberley, and other recent protests across the country over similar issues, presents reason for continuing concern for companies and organizations operating in South Africa. groundTruth Global has been tracking this violence for several months. For example, on June 19th, protesters angry over poor service delivery by the government burned a sugarcane plantation in Amandawe, leading to 43 arrests; on May 30th, residents of Mohlakeng shut down roads in the area in protest over poor service delivery; and on March 12th, protests over electricity cuts in Groutville resulted in the shooting injuries of two people.

According to Municipal IQ, a local data collection and intelligence organization, the number of service delivery-related protests in South Africa for the first six months of 2018 have reached 83% of the total number of protests recorded in all of 2017, putting this year on track to far exceed previous years. Municipal IQ’s data indicates that the number of service delivery-related protests this year is set to exceed the previous record of 191 total protests in 2014.


These protests are largely prompted by problems in many South African communities related to the fair and affordable provision and availability of basic services such as electricity, housing, water, and other utilities. The issues found in housing and service provision are, in many cases, exacerbated or caused by entrenched government corruption. Due to the challenges posed in combating corruption and ensuring that basic services reach historically disenfranchised communities, these protests are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. For this reason, groundTruth Global will continue to monitor the disruptions they cause as well as indicators related to governance and infrastructure to assess and anticipate when such social unrest might improve or worsen.