Death toll rises in South African chaos

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021 00:00 | By
A suspected looter gestures to unseen South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers asking help for a man allegedly wounded by rubber bullets shot by Jabulani Mall. Photo/AFP

Johannesburg, Tuesday

Protesters clashed with security forces in several areas of South Africa and looters ransacked shopping malls on Tuesday as frustrations over poverty and inequality boiled over in to the country’s worst unrest in years, with the death toll rising to more than 30.

Many of the deaths occurred in chaotic stampedes as scores of people looted food, electrical appliances, liquor and clothing from retail centres, KwaZulu-Natal province premier Sihle Zikalala told the press on Tuesday morning.

Shops, petrol stations and government buildings have been forced to close. Looters carried off items ranging from beer and foodstuffs to household appliances, footage showed, and at least one shopping mall was completely trashed.

In some areas of the coastal city of Durban where shops were being looted, there was no police visibility, Reuters news agency said.

At a mall in Johannesburg’s Soweto township, police and military were patrolling as shop owners assessed the damage.

Cele said 757 people had been arrested so far. He said the government would act to prevent the violence from spreading further and warned that people would not be allowed “to make a mockery of our democratic state”.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, speaking at the same news onference, said she did not think a state of emergency should be imposed yet.

Zuma, 79, was sentenced last month for defying a constitutional court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018. 

The decision to jail him resulted from legal proceedings seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, including against powerful politicians.

But any confrontation with soldiers risks fuelling charges by Zuma and his supporters that they are victims of a politically motivated crackdown by his successor, Ramaphosa.

The violence worsened as Zuma challenged his 15-month jail term in South Africa’s top court on Monday. Judgement was reserved until an unspecified date.

But the deteriorating situation pointed to wider problems and unfulfilled expectations that followed the end of white minority rule in 1994 and the election of Nelson Mandela in South Africa’s first free and democratic vote.

The economy is struggling to emerge from the damage wrought by Africa’s worst Covid-19 epidemic, forcing it to repeatedly impose restrictions on businesses that have hurt an already fragile recovery. 

The crisis may have widened the gulf between haves and have-nots. Growing joblessness has left people ever more desperate.   - BBC

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