Rioters Undeterred by Army Wreak Havoc in South Africa
(Bloomberg) -- Deadly protests that erupted in South Africa following former President Jacob Zuma’s jailing showed no signs of letting up, even as the authorities pledged to clamp down on the violence and the army was deployed to help the police keep it in check.
Hundreds of stores in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, which account for about half the nation’s economic output, were looted and major highways have been blocked. The violence has claimed 72 lives, with 27 fatalities in KwaZulu-Natal and 45 in Gauteng, the security agencies said in a statement on Tuesday night.
Rioting continued on Tuesday in several Gauteng townships, including Alexandra, Diepsloot, Vosloorus and Mamelodi, although calm prevailed in Johannesburg’s city center, which bore the brunt of the violence on Monday. Broadcaster eNCA screened live pictures of a mob looting a warehouse complex near the eastern port city of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, and people lining up in vehicles to ferry away appliances they’d stolen.
The government halted the issuing of coronavirus vaccines throughout KwaZulu-Natal and in parts of Gauteng, because it didn’t want to place staff or recipients at risk, said Nicholas Crisp, a consultant to the health department who is helping oversee the inoculation program.
Stores were also targeted in East London in the Eastern Cape, although demonstrations there weren’t as bad as in other areas, the provincial government’s acting spokesman Mxolisi Spondo said by phone. Looting also occurred in one town in the northeastern Mpumalanga province and two incidents in the Northern Cape. No incidents were reported in the other four provinces, but authorities there remained on high alert.
“Yes, the situation looks like it’s out of hand, yes, people are in a state of panic,” Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told reporters in Pretoria, the capital. “We are all concerned about what is happening.”
The security agencies said 549 people were arrested in KwaZulu-Natal and 683 in Gauteng. More than 2,500 soldiers are assisting the police restore order, with personnel being sent to protest hot-spots..
“We cannot allow anyone to make a mockery of our democratic state and we have instructed the law enforcement agencies to double their efforts to stop the violence and to increase deployment on the ground,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said.
While the turmoil was triggered by Zuma’s incarceration following his conviction on contempt of court charges, the government says criminal elements are exploiting the instability to enrich themselves. Allegations that former members of the intelligence agencies with links to Zuma were instigating the violence are still being investigated, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said.
The unrest has dented business confidence and unnerved investors. The rand fell as much as 2.3% against the dollar to 14.7381 on Tuesday, the lowest level since March 31, after declining 1.3% on Monday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa warned in a televised address Monday night that the turmoil posed a threat to food security and was frustrating efforts to bring the coronavirus under control at a time when the country is experiencing a third wave of infections.
The health department said 137,421 Covid-19 shots were issued in the 24 hours to 5 p.m. local time on Tuesday, compared with more than 191,000 late last week.
The country’s four biggest banks closed branches in violence-hit areas, fuel and chemical producer Sasol Ltd. said its road and rail deliveries had been disrupted, and retailers and telecommunications companies shut outlets.
Communications infrastructure was targeted with a 113 network towers vandalized, according to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa. The nation’s biggest oil refinery, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc, was shut because of safety concerns and logistical issues.
State power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. said its plants and coal supply hadn’t been affected. It suspended some operations as a precautionary measure on Sunday, but resumed them during daylight hours on Tuesday.
Aleix Montana, Africa Analyst at at risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft, expects the civil unrest to intensify over the next few days.
“Zuma’s imprisonment was the spark that ignited the protests, but underlying issues such as rampant unemployment, widespread inequality and discontent with Covid-19 related restrictions are the powder keg,” Montana said.
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