South Africa riots latest: Death toll mounts amid violence – ‘Things are getting scary’

South Africa: Expert discusses protests over Zuma arrest

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At least 30 people have died in violent rioting in parts of South Africa amid the worst uprisings seen in the nation in decades. The unrest was triggered by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma, with current President Cyril Ramaphosa describing the situation as unprecedented in the 27 years since the end of the apartheid regime.

An estimated 800 people have been arrested since rioting began on Thursday, with the worst of the unrest seen in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, which encompass Durban and Johannesburg respectively.

Fires have been set in the streets, highways blocked and businesses and shops heavily looted.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said some 26 people had been killed in the province so far, including a 15-year-old boy, with another six dead in Gauteng.

Some of those killed died from gunshot wounds, according to local media.

The military has been deployed to help control the situation, but calls for calm have done little to quell the violence.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said that if the looting continued, there was a risk areas could run out of basic goods.

One Durban resident told he was struggling to find bread and milk, and that his family had barricaded themselves in their houses.

He said there was “a lot of community policing going on which is good in some ways but also worrying”, adding: “Hockey sticks seem to be the main weapon of choice, but many people with shotguns and sidearms.

“It is a disaster waiting to happen as there seems to be some who believe they can restrict access to certain roads and at some point, somebody is going to take umbrage and there will be an incident.”

Cash points have reportedly run out of money or been too heavily vandalised to use, and businesses are still being looted.

The source said: “I’m feeling very unsettled and nervous and we have in reality been largely unaffected.

“I cannot imagine how the people who have lost shops, factories and businesses are feeling.”

Despite the alarming reports emerging, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said there was not yet a need to declare a state of emergency.

What is causing the unrest?

The protests began over the jailing of Jacob Zuma, convicted of contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months in prison.

The former ANC leader was a key figure in the battle against apartheid and despite widespread accusations of deep corruption within his administration, he still has a large support base.

But as the protests continue, they have taken on a wider meaning, encompassing social injustice in a nation still split along racial lines and inequality plain to see.

The economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions has exacerbated problems and persistent poverty.

Police Minister Bheki Cele told a news conference: “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.”

Mr Cele added: “We are confident our law enforcement agencies are able to do their job successfully.

“The current situation on the ground is under strong surveillance and we will ensure it will not deteriorate further.”

Addressing the nation on Monday, President Ramaphosa said he was speaking with “a heavy heart” and called for respect for the law.

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