Death Toll Rises in South Africa Amid Looting and Violence

South African is facing its worst unrest in years as what initially had a political feel to it has snowballed into a citizen revolt.

From protests against the jailing of former President, Jacob Zuma, citizens have gone on a spree of looting in stores and malls in the KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng provinces.

As at Tuesday morning, the death toll has risen to more than 30, with heavy destruction of properties to accompany the violence — worst of its kind in years.

Is Hunger The Reason Behind South Africans’ Anger?

The protests had started last week as a show of displeasure against the decision of the Constitutional Court, South Africa’s highest court to jail former President, Zuma.

Zuma was jailed for 15 months over allegations of a contempt of court after he failed to appear before an inquiry instructed by the ConCourt. He was to answer questions over some alleged corrupt practices during his nine-year Presidency between 2009 and 2018.

Zuma’s powers and following were always going to be a snag in the justice process, as his strong traditional stand in the Zulu kingdom is revered by many locals. Although his administration was filled with a litany of corruption scandals including his affairs with the Gupta family, punishing him stood the risk of being seen as an act of public ridicule by the government of his former ally, President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The anger the Zuma supporters have shown since he was jailed was expected and the protests have since transmogrified into a citizen revolt. South Africans are unhappy about the state of their economy and the high rate of unemployment. Locals also believe the Ramaphosa government has bee subservient to the white, rich and powerful minority, at the expense of the black majority. For a nation with a sordid history of apartheid, that was always going to be a challenge and one difficult to do without.

The nation has so far struggled to bounce back from COVID-19, with its borrowings expected to soon exceed its GDP, there’s a brutal coexistence of political anger and economy-induced hunger in the country.

Troops Out On The Streets

Ramaphosa on Monday ordered troops to restore sanity to the Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal Provinces amid looting of private stores and destruction of properties. On the same day, the Concourt listened to the request for rescission by Zuma’s legal representatives. His advocates claimed that he wasn’t given the right to fair trial and the court didn’t follow Section 35 of the South African Constitution.

While the court sessions went on, soldiers were also out on the street to restore law and order with the attendant danger of heating up an already distorted country also standing as a risk. According to the Premiers of Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal, majority of the fatalities recorded have come from stampedes.

“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 Sihle Zikalala, the Premier of KwaZulu Natal Province.

The South African government has so far not declared a state of emergency, with a possible announcement of such expected if the flagrant situation persists.

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