South African president vows to restore order after scores killed in violence

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (AP)
18:00pm, Fri 16 Jul 2021
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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to restore order after a week of violence set off by the imprisonment of former leader Jacob Zuma

Speaking in the port city of Durban in hard-hit KwaZulu-Natal province, Zuma’s home area, Mr Ramaphosa said the chaos and violence had been “planned and co-ordinated” but the instigators will be prosecuted.

Standing at the entrance to a looted mall and surrounded by soldiers, he said: “We have identified a good number of them and we will not allow anarchy and mayhem to just unfold in our country.”

South Africa Zuma Riots (AP)

As army tanks rolled by the trashed Bridge City mall, Mr Ramaphosa said the deployment of 25,000 troops would end the violence and rampant theft in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.

South Africa’s unrest erupted after Zuma began serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court for refusing to comply with a court order to give evidence at a state-backed inquiry investigating allegations of corruption while he was president from 2009 to 2018.

Protests quickly escalated into looting in township areas. In Durban, rioters attacked retail areas and industrial centres where they emptied warehouses and set them alight.

South Africa Zuma Riots (AP)

More than 2,500 people have been arrested for theft and vandalism and 212 people have died, said Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, acting minister in the presidency. Many were trampled to death when shops were looted, according to police.

The army rollout in KwaZulu-Natal is expected to restore order in the coastal province within a few days. An uneasy calm has been secured in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city and industrial hub.

In a sign of a return to stability, a strategic highway linking Durban and Johannesburg reopened on Friday after being closed for a week, officials announced.

South Africa Zuma Riots (AP)

The unrest first flared at the Mooi River toll gate for the N3 highway where more than 20 trucks were burned.

The military will patrol the highway but drivers are warned to use the road with care. “It is vitally important to proceed with extreme caution and to stay alert at all times,” said the highway authority.

The military is also working to keep open the N2 highway, which links Cape Town to Durban. The highways are vital transport routes carrying fuel, food and other goods.

The rail line to the strategic Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richard’s Bay was also closed by the unrest, the state-owned transportation company, Transnet said earlier this week.

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