How Powerful Is South Africa?

Since apartheid, South Africa has flourished economically but struggles from xenophobia, high-income inequality, and rising crime. So how powerful is South Africa?

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Zulu nationalism clashes with mainstream South African government

Earlier this month, South Africa saw a wave of attacks against migrants killed seven people. Many people speculate that the words of the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, played a large part inciting the violence. In a speech on March 20, Mr. Zwelithini said, ""Let us pop our head lice...We must remove ticks and place them outside in the sun. We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and be sent back.," referring to South Africa's migrant population.

Although the king later claimed his words were taken out of context with no intent to cause violence, he recently made another speech that did not do him any favors. At a soccer stadium, he addressed fans and said, if he really wanted to call on his supporters to get violent, "this country would be in ashes."

Mr. Zwelithini's remarks highlight one of the major issues affecting South African politics today: how can the government make up for years of injustice under apartheid? How can tribal leaders be incorporated into the national democracy while also preserving a strong sense of heritage and identity?

Many rally around the legend of King Shaka, a warrior from the early 1800s who united tribes in eastern South Africa into a strong, militaristic Zulu empire. Under apartheid, tribal leaders clung to this legend as they oversaw somewhat autonomous states and got paid by the white-minority government officials. Various reforms since the 1990s have empowered tribal elders to have a say in land ownership and administration.

Still, Mr. Zwelithini believes this does not go far enough. Last year, he filed an official request for restitution for vast tracts of land that had long belonged to the Zulu tribe, including the city of Durban and plots owned by white farmers. While media reports speculate his bid will fail, the African National Congress has to maintain Mr. Zwelthini's support to do well in next year's elections.

Learn More:
South Africa - The Most Unequal Income Distribution in the World (Euromonitor)
"Despite the end of the apartheid in 1994, South Africa has the highest income inequality in the world measured by the Gini Index - a level that has remained relatively unchanged between 1990 and 2011. "

African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (ANWFZ) Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty) (Nuclear Threat Initiative)
"The Treaty obligates Parties not to develop, manufacture, acquire, or possess any nuclear explosive device."

The Mining Industry in South Africa (ChamberOfMines.org)
"The mining industry in South Africa remains an important contributor to our economy and we are fully supportive of maintaining, promoting and enhancing that role."

FACTSHEET: South Africa's official crime statistics for 2013/14 (AfricaCheck.org)
"This factsheet provides an overview of key crime trends for the period 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014 as recorded by the South African Police Service (SAPS)."