The death toll from the wave of riots and looting that has hit South Africa in recent days now stands at 10, as confirmed on Monday by the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who appealed to all of society to restore “calm.”
The altercations, which began last Friday in the form of a protest at the recent imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma, have so far had 489 people arrested.
“The path of violence, looting and anarchy only leads to more violence and devastation. It leads to more poverty, more unemployment and more loss of innocent lives. This is not who we are as a people,” Ramaphosa said in a serious message addressed to the nation, after a day of violent incidents and looting as “rarely” seen in the democratic era in South Africa.
In total, this Monday there have been six deaths in the province of Gauteng (where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located) and four in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, where the first clashes took place.
Concentrated in these two regions, the incidents did not stop growing over the weekend and last Monday, degenerating into massive looting of shopping centers, burning of shops and violent clashes with the security forces, which have so far been unable to control the situation. The Army has deployed this Monday.
“This violence may actually have its roots in pronouncements and activities by individuals for political purposes and in expressions of violence and anger (…). However, what we are seeing now are acts of opportunistic criminality, with groups of people instigating the chaos merely as an alibi to loot and steal, “Ramaphosa has condemned.
The impact of the riots
The South African president also lamented that, in addition to personal and material damage, the riots are likely to have an impact on the food and goods distribution chain in the coming days, although they have interrupted the crucial vaccination against COVID-19 in several affected areas.
For all these reasons, the head of state has called on all of society to “remain calm” and resist any attempt to incite “violence” or to create “panic.”
The violent acts began on the 9th in KwaZulu-Natal, the native province of former South African president Jacob Zuma and his great bastion of political support.
Although the former president himself peacefully surrendered to the authorities late last Wednesday, the first protests took place as a show of support for his imprisonment in Estcourt prison that same night to serve a 15-month sentence for judicial contempt after having repeatedly refused to testify for corruption.
In the following days they were replicated in other areas, especially in the Johannesburg area, turning into a generalized crime wave in some neighborhoods of the city, especially the most disadvantaged.
The incidents also occur at the worst moment of an aggressive third wave of COVID-19 cases in the country, which is the worst hit by the pandemic in all of Africa (with some 2.2 million infections and some 64,000 deaths ).