Worst violence in years spreads in South Africa as grievances boil over
Crowds clashed with police and ransacked or burned shopping malls in South Africa on Tuesday, with dozens reported killed as grievances unleashed by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma boiled over into the worst violence in years.
Protests that followed Zuma’s arrest last week have widened into looting and an outpouring of generalised anger over inequality that persists 27 years after the fall of apartheid. Poverty has been exacerbated by severe social and economic restrictions aimed at blocking the spread of COVID-19.
Security officials said the government was working to halt the spread of the violence and looting, which has so far spread from Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal province to Gauteng province surrounding the country’s biggest city Johanesburg. Theydeployed soldiers onto the streets to try to contain it, but stopped short of declaring a state of emergency.
“No amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalise and do as they please and break the law,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told a news conference, echoing sentiments expressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa overnight.
The bodies of 10 people were found on Monday evening after a stampede at a Soweto shopping mall, premier David Makhura said.
Hundreds of looters raided warehouses and supermarkets in Durban, one of the busiest shipping terminals on the African continent and a major import-export hub.
Outside a Durban warehouse of retailer Game, Reuters filmed looters stuffing cars with electronic goods and clothes. Inside, the floor was a wreckage of discarded packaging as the crowd systematically emptied the shelves.
Aerial footage from local channel eNCA showed black smoke rising from several warehouses, while debris lay strewn.