South Africa deployed soldiers on the streets Monday to quell violence that erupted in the wake of former president Jacob Zuma’s jailing, after days of riots left at least six people dead according to Reuters.
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 (KZN).
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The sporadic pro-Zuma protests that broke out when he turned himself in last week have quickly escalated into looting and arson, mainly in KZN but also in Gauteng, where the biggest city is Johannesburg.
Some COVID-19 vaccination sites in Gauteng have closed due to safety concerns, the provincial government said, further delaying a sluggish immunization campaign.
Opportunistic criminals appear to be taking advantage of the anger some feel over Zuma’s incarceration to steal and cause destruction, police said.
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, which ended in 2018.
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.
“The South African National Defence Force has commenced with pre-deployment processes … to assist law enforcement agencies deployed in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces … to quell the unrest that has gripped both in the last few days,” the military said in a statement.
“The duration [of the deployment] and number of deploying soldiers will be determined based on the assessment of the situation on the ground.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa plans to address the nation about the violence later on Monday, his office said.