South Africa says it has put 10,000 soldiers on the streets and called up reservists for the first time in decades after days of looting and violence that threatened food and fuel supplies across the country.
The death toll reached 117 dead, and more than 3,000 people were arrested, according to official figures, since former President Jacob Zuma began a 15-month prison sentence, sparking a spark. The protests quickly turned into a wave of looting From shops, malls and warehouses.
The unrest, accompanied by attacks on communications facilities, roads and other vital infrastructure, was largely confined to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, but it damaged goods and services across the south. Africa.
On Thursday, officials said the situation in Gauteng was calmer but remained volatile in KwaZulu-Natal, where 39 incidents were reported in the past 24 hours.
A cabinet minister said in a press conference that the number of forces deployed to reinforce the overcrowded police had doubled for the second day in a row to ten thousand.
Defense Minister Noseviwe Mabeza Nkakula. He told Parliament She had “submitted a request for the deployment of over 25,000 troops” to the president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
It is unclear when the reinforcements will actually be deployed, as it will take weeks for the mobilization to take effect. Experts said that a full recall of this magnitude has not been attempted since the end of apartheid in 1994. It is also unclear whether there are sufficient reserves available to meet the minister’s request.
The government has come under pressure to increase the presence of security forces to reassure fearful communities across a swath of the country. The images of the throngs of thieves pulling out refrigerators, large televisions, microwaves, boxes of food and alcohol came as a deep shock to many South Africans.
Armed civilians form self-defense or vigilante groups In many of the worst affected areas, barricades have been erected and, in some cases, suspected thieves have opened fire. A group of minibus operators armed themselves with sticks and firearms on Wednesday and violently beat suspected thieves in the southeast Johannesburg town of Vosloros.
Medics told the Guardian that emergency wards were “flooded” with gunshot wounds. South Africa’s health services are already under enormous pressure as the country suffers a third wave of Covid-19 infections.
Other self-help groups have worked to protect and clean up wrecked malls and other businesses, or to protect service stations.
The extent of the devastation is only now clear. South Africa’s consumer goods regulator said more than 800 retail stores had been looted, while in KwaZulu-Natal, goods worth between $400 million and $1 billion were either stolen or destroyed, according to industry estimates. More than 200 malls have been destroyed, damaged or looted.
President Cyril Ramaphosa Political party leaders met and warned that parts of the country “may soon run out of basic provisions after major disruptions in food, fuel and medicine supply chains”.
State-owned logistics carrier Transnet declared a “state of force majeure” on Wednesday – a state of emergency beyond its control – on a railway linking Johannesburg with the coast due to the unrest.
In the coastal city of Durban, hundreds of people queued outside food stores hours before they opened as rows of cars also formed outside gas stations. In Johannesburg, panic buying emptied supermarket shelves. In Soweto, bread was on sale from a delivery truck outside a large mall where stores were looted or closed due to fears of vandalism.
Bunang Mohali, president of the University of the Free State, said the looting “has seriously impeded our energy and food security.”
South African Petroleum Industry Association sought to reassure consumers On Wednesday, he said the availability of gasoline and other related products in the country is stable.
Christo van der Reede, executive director of the largest farmers’ organisation, AgriSA, said producers are struggling to get crops to market due to logistical “chaos”. He warned that if law and order were not restored soon, “we will face a massive humanitarian crisis.”
Ramaphosa had initially deployed 2,500 soldiers at the start of the week to aid the overcrowded police force, before plans quickly changed to increase the number to 25,000.
This spread is very costly, and is an additional burden on the struggling South African economy.
Some analysts have attributed the regime’s collapse to factional rivalry within the ruling African National Congress.
Ramaphosa ousted Zuma in 2018 and surrendered to police last week to serve a 15-month prison sentence for refusing to appear before a judicial investigation into corruption during his nine-year rule.
The imprisonment of the former president was a major victory for Ramaphosa, who leads a moderate and pragmatic faction of the ruling African National Congress.
There is some evidence that followers of the former leader instigated at least some of the recent unrest in a deliberate attempt to undermine rivals, possibly opening the way for a return to power or at least protecting their economic interests.
Experts have suggested that targeting communication towers, roads, fuel supply routes, port facilities and water stations indicates a strategy aimed at economic sabotage.
Zuma’s core supporters say he is the victim of a witch-hunt orchestrated by political opponents. The 79-year-old former anti-apartheid fighter has so far remained popular among many poor South Africans, especially in KwaZulu-Natal.
AFP contributed to this report