Fears are mounting riots which broke out in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday could spread throughout the region, particularly in countries where democracy and the rule of law appear under threat.
In an unprecedented move, African National Congress (ANC) Youth League supporters besieged their party’s headquarters denouncing President Jacob Zuma, burning party T-shirts bearing his face and clashed with the police.
The youths were protesting against the ANC’s decision to bring their firebrand leader Julius Malema before a disciplinary committee.
Two police officers were injured in the protest — one appeared to have hurt his arm, while another had a bloody face.
A South African Press Association photographer, Werner Beukes, and two eNews journalists Belinda Moses and Cathy Mohlahlana were pelted with stones.
Political analysts in Zimbabwe fear similar riots may engulf the entire region where Swaziland set the ball rolling early this year when thousands protested against lack of freedom and economic hardships in Africa’s last absolute monarch.
“It is very possible for these riots to spread throughout the region. If you have a country like Swaziland or Malawi experiencing these riots, it is very possible in countries like Namibia, South Africa, and even Zimbabwe,” said University of Zimbabwe political scientist John Makumbe.
Another political commentator, Ibbo Mandaza, agreed.
“These things are going to happen more and more. Reform of the states from totalitarian systems that we have is the only solution,” he said.
In Johannesburg, yesterday’s riots were described by many as the naastiest in post-independent South Africa.
Malema’s supporters could be seen burning ANC flags and T-shirts as they made their way to the entrance to Luthuli House, the party headquarters.
“Malema is our brother,” read a placard being held up by one of Malema’s supporters.
Several streets were closed while groups of supporters, whistling and blowing vuvuzelas, ran up and down, signalling motorists to stop and make U-turns.
The protesters had broken through barricades and were pelting police and journalists with glass bottles and stones.
Mass riots in Africa have become popular as civilians take to the streets, demanding the ouster of dictators clinging to power. It all started in North Africa with countries like Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt leading the way.
In Southern Africa, Malawi followed suit before Swaziland joined in, and now South Africa.