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The Impact of Zuma’s Incarceration, Social Unrest, and Mayhem on Zimbabwean Migrant-Owned Informal Businesses in Durban, South Africa

John Mhandu


Published: 2022/12/01


The article investigates the impact of the widespread social unrest that followed the incarceration of the former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. The initial part of the article scrutinizes the turmoil and mayhem that submerged the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The penultimate part of the article examines the impact of the social unrest and mayhem on the tenuous informal businesses of Zimbabwean migrants operating in Durban central. The startling discontent and mayhem resulted in numerous confirmed fatalities. The central thesis of the present study is that the July 2021 Zuma protest was characterized by opportunistic acts of criminality wherein the instigators used the former President’s incarceration as a smokescreen for looting and thuggery. Criminal opportunists took over the unrest, creating a state of pandemonium characterized by screaming crowds, burning, and looting of shops including those owned by Zimbabwean migrants in Durban central. Grounded in the interpretivist paradigm, this qualitative study used 15 in-depth interviews with migrants participating in informal economic activities in Durban central. The article uses sociological imagination to discuss the social unrest, mayhem, and looting sparked by the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma. The concept of the sociological imagination provides a theoretical understanding of the underlying structural issues in South African society that were catalysts for the state of normlessness that ensued. Keywords: Jacob Zuma, Informal economy, Looting, Social unrest, Zimbabwean migrant, Informal economy

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