Juba, South Sudan,
July 13, 2021 – Several shops have been looted and buildings set ablaze as a protest against the jail sentence of former President Jacob Zuma turned violent.
According to reports by South African local media, about six people have been killed and the police have arrested 500 since last week when Mr. Zuma willingly submitted himself to the police.
On Tuesday morning, the BBC reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa has deployed troops in Gauteng Province and Zuma’s province, KwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma was handed a 15-month jail sentence by the Constitutional Court for contempt of court after he failed to turn up for a hearing on corruption accusations labeled against him during his tenure of office.
Mr. Zuma also initially mocked the court ruling with a local media outlet quoting him saying, “The judge was stubborn”.
On Monday, Mr. Ramaphosa, in a televised address to the nation, condemned what he called “acts of public violence of a kind rarely seen in the history of our democracy”.
The unrest began as protests against Zuma’s jailing but has escalated and broadened in a country where such violence is seen during xenophobic attacks.
On Tuesday, images from Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal, showed shops ransacked and businesses set on fire. In Johannesburg, looters were seen taking televisions, microwave ovens, and clothes. Ramaphosa called it an act of criminality.
“What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft,” Mr. Ramaphosa said.
“There is no grievance or political cause that can justify the violence and destruction that we have seen in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng,” Ramaphosa said adding that the violence has jeopardized the country’s vaccination program.
“Our vaccination program has been severely disrupted just as it was gaining momentum. This will have lasting effects on our progress in economic recovery,” President Ramaphosa said.
Meanwhile, Zuma is also being tried on corruption charges. He pleaded not guilty last month in a case involving a $5bn (£3bn) arms deal from the 1990s. His supporters argue he is the victim of a political witch hunt, orchestrated by Ramaphosa allies.