Africa

Worst violence spreads in S/Africa over Zuma arrest

More protests have emerged following South Africa’s Zuma arrest and has resulted in looting and an outpouring of general anger over the hardship and inequality that persist 27 years after the end of apartheid.

Crowds clashed with police and looted or set ablaze shopping malls in cities across South Africa on Tuesday, with dozens of people reported killed, as grievances unleashed by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma boiled over into the worst violence in years.

Security officials said the government was working to halt the spread of the violence and looting, which has spread from Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal province to the country’s biggest city Johannesburg and surrounding Gauteng province, and to the Indian Ocean port city of Durban.

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.

He also faces trial in a separate case on charges including corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering. He pleaded not guilty in court in May.

Zuma’s foundation said there would be no peace in South Africa until the former president was released from jail.

“Peace and stability in South Africa is directly linked to the release of President Zuma with immediate effect,” it said in a Tweet.

“The violence could have been avoided. It started with the decision of the constitutional court to detain president Zuma … This is what gave anger to the people,” a spokesman for the foundation told Reuters separately.

Troops moved into flashpoints on Tuesday as outnumbered police seemed helpless to stop the unrest, with columns of armoured personnel carriers rolling down highways.

Photo credit : cncbafrica

The bodies of 10 people were found on Monday evening after a stampede at a Soweto shopping mall, Gauteng premier David Makhura said.

Hundreds of looters raided warehouses and supermarkets in Durban, one of the busiest shipping terminals on the African continent and an import-export hub.

Outside a Durban warehouse of retailer Game, looters stuffed cars with electronic goods and clothes, a Reuters witness said. Inside, the floor was a mess of discarded packaging as the crowd emptied the shelves.

The rand, which had been one of the best performing emerging market currencies during the pandemic, dropped to a three-month low on Tuesday, and local and hard currency bonds suffered.

At least 45 people have so far been killed during the unrest, 19 in Gauteng and 26 in KwaZulu-Natal, according to state and provincial authorities.

The legal proceedings against Zuma have been seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law.

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. Judgment was reserved until an unspecified date.

The economy is struggling to emerge from the damage wrought by Africa’s worst COVID-19 epidemic, with authorities repeatedly imposing restrictions on businesses.

Growing joblessness has left people ever more desperate. Unemployment stood at a new record high of 32.6% in the first three months of 2021.

The health department meanwhile said it had been forced to temporarily close some vaccination sites affected by the unrest, which had disrupted the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

Essential healthcare services like the collection of chronic medication by tuberculosis, HIV and diabetes patients were also affected by the violence.

An official, who declined to be named, said a government target to vaccinate 200,000 people on Monday fell short by 54,000 shots, mostly owing to disruption from the violence. [Reuters]

 

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