Cape Town – Violent protests in some parts of South Africa continued into the early hours of Monday, with shops being looted and properties set alight.
The sporadic violence erupted on Friday in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, where ex-president Jacob Zuma is in jail, and in the economic capital Johannesburg.
Police are on Monday said they were investigating the deaths of two people – one in Alexandra and the other in Jeppestown, while trying to contain the violence.
In a statement on Sunday, police said they had arrested 37 people in KwaZulu-Natal and 25 in Johannesburg over the weekend.
In KwaZulu-Natal, protests broke out a day after Zuma was imprisoned on Thursday last week.
In pictures: One of South Africa’s biggest highways has been closed after violent protests against former president Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment pic.twitter.com/TrmFFOo2Pr
— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) July 10, 2021
The N3 highway linking coastal city Durban and Johannesburg was blocked for many hours, including a stretch south of Estcourt prison, where Zuma is being held.
Around 23 trucks were set alight at Mooi River around 150km northwest of Durban.
Although some of the protests appear to have been triggered by Zuma’s 15-month detention for contempt of court, they are tied in with a sense of economic desperation as the country faces tightened restrictions under a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We don’t know yet what the strike is all about… but from what people have been saying it’s something related to our former president,” Sphamandla Ndlazi told AFP in the Jeppe neighbourhood of Johannesburg, with looted shops and burnt cars in the background.
President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated calls for calm on Sunday in a speech focused on Covid-19 restrictions, urging people to express themselves “in peaceful protest” and avoid acts that endanger lives and damage the economy.
— Tulani Ngwenya (@tulani_ngwenya) July 11, 2021
But looting continued into Sunday evening in the area around Durban.
“People have been intimidated and threatened, and some have even been hurt,” Ramaphosa said, adding that “some people may have died”.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the police “had their hands full yesterday and throughout the night”, spokesperson Jay Naicker told AFP on Sunday.
“Criminals and opportunistic individuals” took advantage of the tense climate to “enrich themselves”, he added. Several stores were looted, including in the Durban suburb of Mariann Hill.
— Mpho Mohlomi (@MphoMohlomi6) July 11, 2021
In Johannesburg, hundreds defied restrictions to demonstrate in two disenfranchised suburbs late on Saturday, but their protests ended in violence, looting and 25 arrests, police said.
In Jeppe, police dispersed a crowd of 300 who had set up barricades on a main road before looting businesses.
Similar scenes unfolded in Alexandra, one of the poorest townships that neighbours the well-off city of Sandton, where nearly 800 rioters clashed with the police overnight.
One officer was shot and hospitalised and police said they “remain on high alert” an major roads and at hotspots in both KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, where Johannesburg is located.
Why are they burning a mall now.. Ppl will be without jobs mos. https://t.co/x6XtXZkZ9I
— Mthimkhulu (@Ntsimbisays) July 12, 2021
Shops will remain shut on Monday in both provinces to avoid looting, district associations said.
South Africa’s top court ordered Zuma jailed on June 29 for refusing to appear before a probe into the corruption that entangled his nine years in power.
But the 79-year-old former anti-apartheid fighter remains popular, especially in his native KwaZulu-Natal where he is seen to embody traditional values.
Additional reporting by AFP
Picture: Getty Images