Soldiers yesterday stepped up deployment on a mission to quell looting sparked by the jailing of former South African president Jacob Zuma as the death toll from the violence rose to 32.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced late on Monday that he was dispatching troops to help overwhelmed police halt the unrest and “restore order.”
However, stores in Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg, the capital of southeastern KwaZulu-Natal Province, were hit by looters for a fifth day running.
Dozens of women, some wearing their dressing gowns, men and even children strolled into a butcher’s cold store in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto, coming out balancing heavy boxes of frozen meat on their shoulders or heads.
A sole private security guard stood by helplessly, frantically trying to make calls.
Police showed up three hours later and fired rubber bullets.
The unrest erupted on Friday after Zuma started serving a 15-month term for snubbing a probe into the corruption that stained his nine years in power.
The toll in KwaZulu-Natal stands at 26, Premier Sihle Zikalala told a news conference yesterday, a day after officials confirmed six deaths in Gauteng Province.
“These were people killed during stampedes as protesters ran riot,” Zikalala said, without specifying which parts of the province.
At least 757 people have been arrested, Minister of Police Bheki Cele told a news conference, with most of the arrests taking place in Johannesburg.
He said the police would ensure the situation “does not deteriorate any further.”
In his nationwide address on Monday night, Ramaphosa lashed at “opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft.”
It was “of vital importance that we restore calm and stability to all parts of the country without delay,” he said.
“The path of violence, of looting and anarchy, leads only to more violence and devastation,” he said.
Once dubbed the “Teflon president,” Zuma was handed the jail term on June 29 by the Constitutional Court for bucking an order to appear before a commission probing the graft that proliferated under his nine years in power.
He started serving the jail term on Thursday after handing himself in to authorities as a deadline for surrender loomed. He is seeking to have the ruling set aside.
The Constitutional Court sat for 10 hours on Monday hearing from Zuma’s lawyers asking the court to review its ruling, but the court reserved its judgement to a later, but unspecified date.
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