South Africa reels from worst unrest in decades

Authorities struggle to contain violence triggered by the jailing of South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma.

Crowds clashed with police and ransacked or burned shopping malls in South Africa on Tuesday with dozens reported killed as grievances unleashed by the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma boiled over into the worst violence in decades.

Protests that followed Zuma’s arrest last week have widened into looting and an outpouring of generalised anger over inequality that persists 27 years after the fall of apartheid.

Poverty has been exacerbated by severe social and economic restrictions aimed at blocking the spread of COVID-19.

Security officials said the government was working to halt the spread of the violence and looting, which has so far spread from Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal province to Gauteng province surrounding the country’s biggest city Johannesburg.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced late on Monday he was dispatching troops to help overwhelmed police halt the unrest and “restore order”.

Here are the latest updates:

‘Criminal element’ hijacking situation – Guateng premier

Premier David Makhura of Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg said “the criminal element has hijacked this situation.

“We understand that those unemployed have inadequate food. We understand that the situation has been made worse by the pandemic,” an emotional Makhura said on the state South African Broadcasting Corp.

“But this looting is undermining our businesses here (in Soweto). It is undermining our economy, our community. It is undermining everything.”

More than 400 people were arrested in Gauteng, but the situation was far from under control, he said.

People throw stones at police as they attempt looting at Letsoho Shopping Centre in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, South Africa [Themba Hadebe/AP photo]

Troop presence making a ‘difference’

Al Jazeera correspondent Fahmida Miller, reporting from Johannesburg, says the deployment of troops on the streets was now helping to quell the protests.

“Over the last two or three hours … police were struggling to manage what’s been going on and now that there are soldiers here in the last hour and a half there is somewhat of a difference,” she said.

“There are a couple of streets that are deserted and certainly there is hope the presence of the army will quell some of the riots that we’ve seen.”

South Africa says vaccine rollout, essential healthcare disrupted by unrest

South Africa’s health department said violent protests had disrupted the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and essential healthcare services such as the collection of chronic medication by tuberculosis, HIV and diabetes patients.

The department said in a statement it was temporarily closing some vaccination sites, adding anyone with an inoculation scheduled in an area affected by ongoing unrest was advised to defer their vaccination.

A member of the South African Police Forces tries to control looting during protests in Durban, South Africa [EPA]

Currency nosedives amid spread of violence

The South Africa rand, which had been one of the best performing emerging market currencies during the pandemic, dropped to a three-month low on Tuesday, and local and hard currency bonds suffered.

40 killed in unrest: Authorities

At least 45 people have so far been killed during the unrest, 19 in Gauteng and 26 in KwaZulu-Natal, according to state and provincial authorities.

Police Minister Bheki Cele put the official death toll at 10.

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