Robust and accountable local institutions are fundamental for the state to work hand-in-hand with civil society to break down barriers and build social trust.
The recent violent looting of foreign-owned shops and burning of buildings and vehicles across Gauteng's urban centres has prompted a security crackdown and mass arrests. The malicious damage to people and property has patently caused enormous distress and anger at home and abroad. But no one has noticed that the disorder could set back a vital process of central city renewal and regeneration that was under way in many of the affected areas.
The mayhem is clearly related to the national economic crisis and deepening social malaise. Rising unemployment, hardship and perceptions of government inaction and impunity for wrongdoing are fuelling discontent and undermining confidence in political leaders and the state.
Yet conditions are obviously not the same throughout South Africa. The atmosphere is particularly volatile in the densest urban districts, where a potent cocktail of social pressure, raised expectations and frustration is being stirred by opportunists and purveyors of xenophobia and racial hostility.
These complex grievances and social dynamics won't be rectified by more forceful policing and punitive action on the part of the justice...