Looting and riots continues in South Africa, 72 people dead and over 1000 arrested

At least 72 people have been killed with over 1000 arrested in the ongoing riots sparked by the imprisonment of former South African President Jacob Zuma, reports South African media.

Recall Zuma turned himself to begin serving a 15-month prison term after the Constitutional Court sentenced him to prison for defying a court order that he should testify before a commission investigating allegations of rampant corruption when he was president from 2009 to 2018.

His Imprisonment sparked unrest and riots with people looting from shops and warehouses in several part of the country. 

The South African Police Service said in a statement that the death toll had risen to 27 in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal and to 45 in the economic hub of Gauteng province, with many of the fatalities occurring in “stampedes” as scores of people looted food, liquor, clothes and electrical appliances from shops in poor areas. Other deaths were caused by explosions when people tried to break into ATM machines as well as shootings, according to police.

At least one police officer was killed in an attack on law enforcement, while seven others were injured while responding to the riots, police said.

So far, 1,234 people have been arrested, according to police, but the chaos has continued. Looters were seen ransacking warehouses and supermarkets in the port city of Durban on Tuesday, while rioters set fire to a chemical plant near the town of Umhlanga, just north of Durban.

The South African Police Service has reportedly recalled officers from leave and rest days, while the South African National Defence Forces have deployed thousands of soldiers to assist in the unrest. 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to “restore calm and order,” describing the unrest as the worst the country has witnessed since the 1990s, before the end of the apartheid regime,

“Over the past few days and nights, there have been acts of public violence of a kind rarely seen in the history of our democracy,” 

Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation on Monday evening. 

“Let me be clear: We will take action to protect every person in this country against the threat of violence, intimidation, theft and looting. We will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute those who perpetrate these actions and will ensure that they face the full might of our law.”

The lawlessness has disrupted South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination program, which Ramaphosa warned will have “lasting effects on our ability to consolidate some of the progress we were already witnessing in our economic recovery.”