South Africa on Monday deployed soldiers on the streets to quell violence that erupted in the wake of former president Jacob Zuma’s jailing.
Six days of riots have left no fewer than six people dead.
Police said disturbances were intensifying and 219 people had been arrested as the controversial ex-leader challenged his 15-month prison term in the country’s top court.
Smoke from burning buildings swirled in the air as items from burgled shops lay strewn by the side of the road in Pietermaritzburg in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Rioters also torched trucks, stoned cars and destroyed other key infrastructure, SABC News reported.
The sporadic pro-Zuma protests that broke out when he handed himself over last week have quickly escalated into looting and arson, mainly in KZN but also in Gauteng where the biggest city Johannesburg is.
Some COVID-19 vaccination sites in Gauteng have closed due to safety concerns, the provincial government said, further delaying a sluggish immunisation campaign.
Opportunistic criminals appear to be taking advantage of the anger over Zuma’s incarceration to steal and cause destruction, police said.
The rand dropped sharply and was trading down 1.6% against the U.S. dollar at 1505 local time (1300 GMT).
President Cyril Ramaphosa would address the nation about the violence later on Monday, his office said.
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) has meanwhile condemned the riots and looting of business and damage to property in the “Zuma protests”.
SACCI also denounced the actions of some community members in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng as pure criminality.
“What we are witnessing now is pure looting and criminality and has called for peaceful protests. The business organisation is calling on political and community leaders to refrain from utterances that are fuelling the situation.”
SABC News reported the presiding officers of Parliament calling for an end to violence and criminality in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. They have also appealed for calm and adherence to the rule of law.
National Assembly Speaker, Thandi Modise, and NCOP chairperson Amos Masondo said the right to peaceful protests is enshrined in the Constitution.
However, violence, criminality, and incitement go against the country’s constitutional democracy.
They said while they are sympathetic to the personal difficulties facing former President Jacob Zuma, the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution must prevail and be observed by all.
Zuma, 79, was sentenced late 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. read more
The decision to jail him resulted from legal proceedings seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, including against powerful politicians.
In a virtual hearing on Monday, Zuma’s counsel asked the constitutional court to rescind his jail term, citing a rule that judgments can be reconsidered if made in the absence of the affected person or containing a patent error.
But legal experts say Zuma’s chances of success are slim.
Zuma’s imprisonment marks a significant fall from stature for a leading figure in the liberation-movement-turned-ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC).
He was once jailed by South Africa’s pre-1994 white-minority rulers for his efforts to make all citizens equal before the law, but for many his reputation is now tarnished after a string of sleaze and graft scandals.
The corruption inquiry that Zuma has refused to cooperate with is examining allegations that he allowed three Indian-born businessmen, Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, to plunder state resources and peddle influence over government policy.
He and the Gupta brothers, who fled the country after his ouster and are believed to be living in Dubai, deny wrongdoing.
Zuma also faces a corruption case relating to a $2 billion arms deal in 1999 when he was deputy president. He denies the charges in that case.
Source Reuters via NAN and SABC News