On Sunday, 18 April, a small fire on Table Mountain was whipped by high winds into an enormous blaze. It spread quickly to the nearby campus of the University of Cape Town, where embers set alight the roof of the African Studies Library and burned to ashes a significant amount of the world’s rarest and most valuable collections of African media. You could watch it all pretty much live: the family WhatsApp group beaming out the incineration of what you had foolishly believed to be enduring. While the full extent of the damage is still not known, there has been a grim inventory of losses: the Jagger Reading Room was gutted, along with 70,000 books, a collection of government records from across the continent, and the entire African Studies Film Collection.
Organised working-class activists in Cape Town, as well as less organised community protesters across the country, have continued to demand more police stations, more equipment and more police officers in poor neighbourhoods to combat crime, pointing out what amounts to a racist distribution of policing resources. The broader, less nuanced, conversation in South Africa continually returns to criminal justice metrics: why don’t the police arrest more, why don’t the state defenders prosecute more, why don’t the courts convict more? Other conversations veer towards reigning the police in: less torture, less killing of protesters, less assault of sex workers.
Mozambique goes to the polls tomorrow. President Felipe Nyusi is running for re-election and, for the first time, provincial governors will be directly elected rather than appointed by the president. The campaign has been fraught and accusations of irregular behaviour have mounted up, primarily against the ruling party, Frelimo. Last Monday, 7 October, Anastacio Matavele was leaving a training workshop for election monitors in Xai-Xai, the capital of Gaza Province, when he was gunned down in his car. Matavele was the head of the local election observer mission, and it seems likely that his murder was linked to a voter registration scandal.