Pro-Zuma Protests Shutter Parts of Key South Africa Trade Route

Violent protests in South Africa linked to the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma forced the closure of a key trade route in the country after trucks were torched and roads blocked.

Parts of the N3 Toll Route, linking the province’s Durban Harbour with the nation’s economic hub of Gauteng, remain shut after trucks were set alight on the road on Friday night. At least 27 people have been arrested, police said in a statement sent via text message.

President Cyril Ramaphosa called for calm on Saturday. “The impact of public violence against the road freight industry and damage to freeways that serve as economic arteries will be felt also by the people organizing and committing these crimes,” he said in a statement.

The protests began this week as Zuma’s supporters called for his release. The former president has been sentenced to 15 months in jail for defying a court order to testify at a graft inquiry. He denies any wrongdoing.

The violent outbreak is a response to an “unjust” system, Jacob Zuma Foundation spokesman Mzwanele Manyi told Johannesburg-based broadcaster eNCA in an interview on Saturday. “It is the result of a vicious sentence given to a 79-year-old man without giving him the right to a fair trial.”

Manyi did not immediately respond to a call and text message sent to his mobile number.

Police have been deployed along major routes to help enforce rules around gatherings in South Africa to contain the spread of the coronavirus. “Operations are ongoing and a number of people have been arrested,” provincial police spokesman Brigadier Jay Naicker said.

Some incidents tied to the protests are “opportunistic,” with some individuals looting businesses to “enrich themselves,” police said.

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