South Africa is in the grip of its worst unrest since the end of apartheid with shopkeepers firing at looters and a woman throwing her baby from a burning mall roof as violence sparked by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma entered its fifth day today.
At least 45 people have now died – including 10 trampled to death during a stampede at a looted shopping mall – in riots centered around KwaZulu-Natal and Guateng provinces that began last week and raged through the weekend after 79-year-old Zuma was jailed for failing to cooperate with a corruption probe.
The army has been called in to help stem the unrest after fearful citizens began forming ‘defence squads’ to protect their homes and businesses amid warnings that food supplies could soon run short as supermarket owners shut up shop amid the widespread looting.
The armed forces said they were sending 2,500 soldiers to help the police, who have been utterly overwhelmed.
But these numbers compare with the more than 70,000 troops deployed to enforce last year’s coronavirus lockdown, and only handful of soldiers were seen at some shopping centres.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who Zuma and his supporters accuse of carrying out a witch-hunt against him with the corruption probe, appealed for calm as mobs ransacked shopping malls on Monday night – saying the current unrest is the worst the country has seen since the end of white minority rule in the 1990s.
While the roots of the disturbances may be political, Ramaphosa said, peaceful demonstrations have now been hijacked by ‘opportunistic criminals’ who are ‘instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft’.
‘Together, we will defeat those who seek to destabilise our country,’ he said. ‘We will stand as one people, united against violence, unanimous in our commitment to peace and to the rule of law.’
South Africa is in the grip of its worst unrest since the end of apartheid with shopkeepers firing at looters. Pictured: A self-armed local looks for looters inside a supermarket in Durban
Pictured: A self-armed local looks for looters inside a supermarket in Durban amid waves of unrest following the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma
Empty shelves at a shopping mall in Durban, which has fallen victim to looting during the chaos following Zuma’s arrest
Armed forces have been slow to respond to incidents of mass looting at shopping malls. Pictured: A mall in Durban
Shops have been damaged and ripped of their stock by crowds of looters as security guards looked on in horror. Pictured: A shoe shop at a mall in Durban
Video footage shared to Twitter on Monday showed people resorting to shooting at looters in a bid to protect their businesses as looting continues in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces
In the clip, a line of shop and property owners fired on the rioters from afar before running closer and continuing to shoot, while the crowds protected themselves behind road signs and ran off the road amid the chaos
A woman was filed dropping her toddler from the roof of a burning shopping mall in Durban after looters ransacked the shops below and then set fire to them, threatening the apartment block above
A crowd in the street could be seen catching the child and taking them to safety, leaving the mother to find another route out of the burning building
A man suspected of looting from a store calls for medical attention for his brother after he was hit in the head by rubber bullets fired by security officers at the Jabulani Mall in Soweto
South Africa entered the fifth day of rioting on Tuesday with the death toll rising to 32 as police and the military struggle to quell the looting (pictured: Jabulani Mall in Soweto) and violence in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces
A member of the South African Police Services (SAPS) fired rubber bullets at rioters looting the Jabulani Mall in Soweto on Monday
A police officer stands on the arm of a suspected looter while another man wields an iron bar during the violent scenes in Johannesburg on Tuesday
Angry locals launch rocks at police officers near the entrance of a looted shopping mall after the fifth day of ransacking in South Africa
A woman wrapped in a blanket in the colours of the ruling ANC party walks past the bodies of two young men who were fleeing the police when they fell into a sewage pit and drowned in Vlakfontein, Johannesburg on Tuesday
Metro police officers fire at protesters at Jabulani mall as the country deploys army to quell unrest linked to jailing of former President Jacob Zuma in Soweto on Monday
Police take to the streets in the Gauteng region on Tuesday
People throw stones at police as they attempt looting at Lesotho Shopping Centre in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg
Smoke rises from a Makro building set on fire overnight in Umhlanga, north of Durban
Men suspected of looting were detained by police on Tuesday in Vosloorus, Johannesburg
A South African soldier responds to looting at a shopping centre in Soweto on Tuesday
The violence has been centred around Zuma’s home state of KwaZulu-Natal and the large coastal city of Durban, as well as Guateng province and the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria – particularly in the township of Soweto
A fire engulfs Campsdrift Park, which houses Makro and China Mall on Tuesday
Looters empty a Game store warehouse on an industrial park in the city of Durban, South Africa, amid widespread unrest
ATM at a Soweto shopping centre are trashed following the unrest sparked by Jacob Zuma’s arrest
How former president criminal Jacob Zuma’s jail sentence sparked chaos
The unrest started in Jacob Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday after the former president was jailed.
The ‘garden province’, whose largest city is Durban, still has strong support for Zuma who remains popular among many poor South Africans, especially grassroots members of the ANC, who see him as a defender of the disadvantaged.
The violence soon spread to Gauteng, the economic hub of South Africa that contains Johannesburg and the deprived township of Soweto, its name an abbreviation of South Western Townships.
The country is in a deep economic malaise, with cripplingly high levels of unemployment exacerbated by the pandemic.
Those hardest hit have been South Africa’s poor and black populations.
Soweto, where Nelson Mandela lived for 16 years, is made up of 99 per cent black people, whose most common first language is Zulu.
The township was originally created to house black Africans who worked in white factories and houses, and the few businesses allowed in the area were heavily controlled by the apartheid state.
Many in Soweto are still too poor to pay for electricity with more than half of people under 35 unemployed.
Similarly, KwaZulu-Natal is a predominantly black and Zulu population with an estimated 3.2million people living in poverty out of a population of 10.5million.
Nationally, the pandemic has worsened conditions with record levels of unemployment at 32.6 per cent, rising to 46.3 per cent among young people.
Zuma’s popularity among poor black Africans combined with their extreme poverty has proved a tinderbox for the country’s latest violence.
One clip posted to Twitter on Monday showed a group of men who were reported to be business owners facing off against a mob along a highway to the south of Durban, the largest city in Kwa-Zulu Natal province.
The mob – who had ripped down street signs to use as makeshift shields – hurled rocks and shouted at the store owners, who returned fire using rifles and shotguns before moving down the road towards them.
Wearing bulletproof vests, the men then formed a line in the middle of the street as the looters continued to hurl rocks and hold their ground.
More footage that appeared online Tuesday showed a woman dropping her young child from the top of a shopping mall after rioters ransacked the shops on the ground floor and set them alight – threatening the apartment building above.
A group of people gathered in the street catch the youngster before rushing him to safety, leaving the mother to try and find her own way down from the burning skyscraper.
Elsewhere in Durban on Tuesday, looters ransacked several retail parks including a large Game warehouse – a retailer which sells electronic goods.
Hundreds of people streamed into the building and removed virtually everything they could carry before jumping into pickup trucks with covered numberplates to make their getaways.
Vandals also trashed a Makro supermarket which was later seen streaming thick grey smoke after apparently being set alight.
Police and security guards attempted to keep the mob under control, but were largely outnumbered.
Meanwhile armoured personnel carriers of the South African army were seen rolling down the streets, but the presence of the troops was not immediately felt.
Protests began on Friday last week, just hours after Zuma handed himself over to police to begin a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court that he was given for refusing to cooperate with a corruption investigation.
The investigation centres on his relationship with three Indian-born businessmen and billionaires, and includes allegations that he allowed them to ransack government coffers and exert influence on public policy
He is also facing a separate trial over a £3billion arms deal he signed in 1999, when he was deputy president.
What began as political action by Zuma supporters in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal has quickly ballooned into general unrest over South Africa’s entrenched poverty and deeply unequal society which is still largely divided along ethnic lines almost two decades after the first democratic government replaced apartheid.
Harsh measures such as lockdowns, curfews, and bans on the sale of certain products including cigarettes and alcohol have exacerbated the anger many feel towards the government and institutions.
Growing joblessness has left people ever more desperate with unemployment standing at a new record high of 32.6 per cent in the first three months of 2021.
Meanwhile the country has also been hit hard by Covid-19, plagued by a vaccine-resistant strain of the virus that has seen its jab roll-out repeatedly stall.
Durban, which has one of the busiest shipping terminals on the African continent, is home to dozens of industrial parks and is a hub for imports and exports into and out of southern Africa.
Amid the unrest, protesters have blockaded roads with burning tires, burned buildings, set off explosions and fired gunshots in townships across KwaZulu-Natal.
Looting (pictured) has been centered on Zuma’s home prvince of KwaZulu-Natal – where a shopping centre was burned and looted on Monday – but have also spread into neighbouring Guateng state and its largest city, Johannesburg
The rioting continued on Tuesday as looters ransacked warehouses and supermarkets in South African cities despite the efforts of heavily outnumbered police
Groups of people have been looting supermarkets and warehouses in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces as the violence continued
The family of Sizwe Mahlangu, 21, grieve after seeing his body on Tuesday in Vlakfontein, Johannesburg
Hundreds of looters are seen ransacking a large industrial park near Durban, South Africa, amid widespread unrest
Durban’s N2 motorway is blocked by looters and security forces trying to bring them under control
President Ramaphosa urged ‘peaceful protest’ during a speech on Sunday. Pictured: A metro police officers keeps guard at Jabulani mall on Tuesday
Suspected looters are pinned to the ground by an armed private security officer inside a flooded mall in Vosloorus on the fifth day of rioting
A member of the military keeps guard outside a McDonald’s store on Tuesday as the country deploys army in two provinces amid looting and rioting
The military (pictured in Diepkloof Square area in Soweto, Johannesburg) has now been called in to help restore order in both provinces amid fears the violence could rapidly escalate
Amid the unrest, protesters have blockaded roads with burning tires, burned buildings, set off explosions and fired gunshots in townships across KwaZulu-Natal. Pictured: Person uses mobile phone in a looted shop
A South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) soldier detains a suspected looter at Jabulani Mall in Soweto
Police and security guards stand over arrested looters in Johannesburg, South Africa
Looters lie on the ground after being arrested for stealing from department stores and shops in Johannesburg
Ramaphosa said on Monday the deadly unrest gripping the country is unprecedented in post-apartheid South Africa as he deployed troops to help police crush the violence and looting.
TV footage showed dozens of women, some wearing their dressing gowns, men and even children strolling into a butcher’s cold store in Soweto, coming out balancing heavy boxes of frozen meat on their shoulders or heads.
Rape charge, ‘Guptagate’ and an arms deal: The scandals that led to the downfall of Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma has been a dominant force in South African politics for decades.
A leader in the resistance to white minority rule, Zuma has been a key figure in the ruling ANC party since the end of apartheid.
The 79-year-old served as the country’s deputy president, before eventually becoming president in 2007.
He held the post for 10 years before his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa took over.
His long political career has been beset by scandals, including a rape charge and multiple allegations of corruption, with his ability to weather political storms seeing him nicknamed the ‘Teflon president’.
In July 2021, he was jailed for failing to cooperate with a corruption probe in a move which prompted mass unrest sparked by his supporters.
The corruption investigation centres on Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas, three billionaire Indian-born businessmen – in a scandal that has been dubbed ‘Guptagate’.
Zuma is accused of allowing the brothers – Atul, Ajay and Rajesh – to plunder state resources and peddle influence over government policy during his time as president.
On July 9, Zuma handed himself over to police to begin a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court after defying a court ruling to give evidence before the inquiry.
Zuma has decried the investigation as a ‘witch hunt’ led by Ramaphosa.
The former president is also facing a separate trial over a £3billion arms deal signed in 1999 when he was deputy president.
Zuma allegedly accepted bribes from international arms manufacturers to influence the choice of weaponry.
But these scandals are only the most recent in a long list.
Prior to Guptagate, Zuma was engulfed in a furore over so-called security upgrades to his rural Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal province.
The tax-payer-funded work, cost $24million (£17.31million) and included a swimming pool – which was described as a fire-fighting facility – an amphitheatre and a visitors’ centre.
South Africa’s graft watchdog in 2014 found that Zuma ‘benefitted unduly’ from the work.
In 2006, the year before he became president, Ramaphosa was put on trial for rape.
He claimed he had had consensual sex with a 31-year-old family friend and was acquitted.
Beyond the alleged rape, South Africans were dismayed that Zuma, who headed the country’s National AIDS Council at the time, admitted to having unprotected sex with his accuser, who was HIV-positive.
He caused further anger by telling the court he had showered afterwards to avoid contracting HIV – This method does not prevent the spread of HIV and was a commonly repeated myth in South Africa at the time.
More than a decade later, he is still mocked in newspaper cartoons, often being depicted with a shower nozzle sprouting from his head.
Despite the slew of scandals, Zuma continues to enjoy support both among poor South Africans and the ANC .
A sole private security guard stood by helplessly, frantically trying to make calls.
Police showed up three hours later, and fired rubber bullets. They were followed much later by soldiers.
At least 757 people have been arrested, Police Minister Bheki Cele told a news conference.
Rioters set fire to a chemical plant close to Umhlanga, a town north of Durban, emergency services said.
Firefighters were on the scene trying to prevent the fire spreading to an adjacent clothing factory.
Many of the deaths have occurred in chaotic stampedes as scores of people looted food, electric appliances, liquor, and clothing from retail centers, KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala told the press on Tuesday morning.
‘Yesterday’s events brought a lot of sadness. The number of people who have died in KwaZulu-Natal alone stands at 26.
‘Many of them died from being trampled on during a stampede while people were looting items,’ said Zikalala.
Fighting has been centered on Zuma’s home state of KwaZulu-Natal – where a shopping centre was burned and looted on Monday – but have also spread into neighbouring Guateng state and its largest city, Johannesburg.
In Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province which includes the largest city, Johannesburg, six people have died, said officials.
The military has now been called in to help restore order in both provinces amid fears the violence could rapidly escalate.
‘The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has commenced with pre-deployment processes and procedures in line with a request for assistance,’ the military said in a statement.
Ramaphosa urged ‘peaceful protest’ during a speech on Sunday.
Suhail Essa, a doctor in the city, described scenes at the weekend as ‘a glimpse into hell’ as his clinic was flooded with patients including a six-month-old girl who was shot in the head by a rubber bullet.
Dr Essa said the girl was being carried by her mother when she got caught up in the violence, before being stuck by the bullet.
He did not say whether she survived.
He told News24 of ‘war-like’ conditions inside his clinic, saying: ‘We were listening to gunshots and screams, and then people were running in for help.’
Among other injuries he treated was a person shot in the eye by a rubber bullet, and multiple foreigners who were stabbed in what he called ‘xenophobic’ attacks.
The situation then descended further into chaos as people began fighting with doctors inside the clinic, before a mob turned up and tried to storm inside.
‘It was a nightmare. There was no chance for us to keep up with the injured patients,’ he added.
‘We were in war mode, dealing with the sickest and helping those who could be saved.’
Looting continued Tuesday in Johannesburg shopping malls in township areas including Jabulani Mall and Dobsonville Mall in Soweto. There were also reports of continued looting in centers in KwaZulu-Natal.
The violence was sparked by a judicial investigation into Zuma, a veteran of South Africa’s fight against apartheid and white minority rule, over his relationship with Indian-born businessmen and brothers known as ‘the Guptas’.
Zuma has begun serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court, after he was convicted of defying a court order to testify before a state-backed inquiry probing allegations of corruption during his term as president from 2009 to 2018.
He is accused of allowing Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta to plunder state resources and peddle influence over government policy.
The 79-year-old has refused to cooperate, describing the investigation as a witch-hunt by his successor Cyril Ramaphosa, and last week defied a court ruling to appear before the inquiry and give evidence.
A judge subsequently jailed him for 15 months for contempt of court, and he was taken to prison on Thursday last week after surrendering to police.
Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s current president, has been accused of carrying out a witch-hunt against Zuma with the investigation.
The Constitutional Court, the country’s highest court, heard Zuma’s application to have his sentence rescinded on Monday.
Zuma’s lawyer presented his arguments that the top court made errors when sentencing Zuma to prison.
After 10 hours of testimony on Monday, the court judges said they would study the arguments and announce their decision at a later date.
The crisis took a political twist on Tuesday as the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, announced it would file criminal charges on Wednesday against Zuma’s children and the leader of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema.
In a statement, the party accused them of using ‘social media to express comments which appear to encourage and incite the violence and looting.’
His jailing sparked a wave of violent protest that began Friday and has continued ever since, centered around his home state of KwaZulu-Natal.
The sporadic pro-Zuma violence spiralled into a spree of criminal theft in poor, township areas of the two provinces, according to witnesses.
So far the lawlessness has not spread to South Africa’s other nine provinces.
A member of the military walks as he inspects the damage at the looted Jabulani mall on Monday as the country deploys army to quell unrest
The deployment of 2,500 soldiers (pictured) to support the South African police has not yet stopped the rampant looting although arrests are being made at some areas in Johannesburg, including Vosloorus in eastern Johannesburg
Suhail Essa, a doctor in the city, described scenes at the weekend as ‘a glimpse into hell’ as his clinic was flooded with patients. Pictured: General view of the aftermath after an ATM was looted in Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg
A road is barricaded in Soweto near Johannesburg, Tuesday July 13, 2021 as ongoing looting and violence continues
Many of the deaths have occurred in chaotic stampedes as scores of people looted food, electric appliances, liquor, and clothing from retail centers, KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala told the press on Tuesday morning
Looting continued Tuesday in Johannesburg shopping malls in township areas including Jabulani Mall and Dobsonville Mall in Soweto. There were also reports of continued looting in centers in KwaZulu-Natal. Pictured: Military in Soweto on Monday
Streets were left strewn with rubbish and debris after looters ransacked shops and other businesses, as rioting sparked by the jailing of ex-president ex-president Jacob Zuma continued
Water floods the floor outside a Game shop with broken doors as alleged shoplifters are rounded up by security guards in Vosloorus
The sporadic pro-Zuma violence spiraled into a spree of criminal theft in poor, township areas of the two provinces, according to witnesses. So far the lawlessness has not spread to South Africa’s other nine provinces
Looting continued Tuesday in Johannesburg shopping malls in township areas including Jabulani Mall and Dobsonville Mall in Soweto. There were also reports of continued looting in centers in KwaZulu-Natal
The police and the military are struggling to quell the looting and violence in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. Pictured: Members of the military look at damaged ATM machines outside a bank on Monday
Meanwhile, the bodies of ten people were found on Monday evening after people ransacked a shopping mall in Soweto, Gauteng, premier David Makhura confirmed on Tuesday. Pictured: Looting at the Jabulani Mall in Soweto on Monday
The Gold Spot Shopping Centre in Vosloorus, southeast of Johannesburg, was left completely trashed on Monday after it was ransacked by looters
A suspected looter is fired upon with rubber bullets by Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department officers inside a flooded mall
A department store emptied of goods after looters broke into the shop in Soweto, Johannesburg
Vehicles sit gridlocked on Queen Nandi Drive after widespread looting in a commercial hub of Durban
People queue to buy food at a supermarket with most stores staying closed amid widespread looting
An owner stands outside his shop while people clean the rubble at the Diepkloof Square area in Soweto, Johannesburg on Tuesday
South Africa’s army said on July 13 it was deploying troops to two provinces, including its economic hub of Johannesburg, to help police tackle deadly violence and looting as unrest sparked by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma continued
A group of armed private security officers walk back to base during an operation against a group of protesters in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, on Monday
Private armed security officers take position during a joint operation with undercover and uniformed South Africa Police Service (SAPS) members in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, amid clashes with residents of the Wolhuter Men’s Hostel
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday the deadly unrest gripping the country is unprecedented in post-apartheid South Africa as he deployed troops to help police crush the violence and looting sparked by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma