Protests turn violent in South Africa, triggered by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, was taken into custody Wednesday to begin serving a 15-month prison sentence, capping a stunning downfall for a once-lauded freedom fighter who battled the apartheid regime alongside Nelson Mandela.
The Constitutional Court, the nation’s highest judicial body, ordered Zuma’s imprisonment last month after finding him guilty of contempt for failing to appear before a commission investigating corruption accusations that tainted his tenure as the nation’s leader from 2009-18.
South Africa deployed soldiers on Monday to quell violence that erupted following the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, after days of riots left at least six people dead.
The pro-Zuma protests broke out when he handed himself over last week have escalated into looting and arson, mainly in KZN but also in Gauteng where the country’s biggest city, Johannesburg, is located.
Police said disturbances had intensified as Zuma challenged his 15-month prison term in the country’s top court.
Shops were looted overnight, a section of highway was closed and stick-wielding protesters marched through Johannesburg on Sunday, as sporadic violence following the jailing of former South African President Jacob Zuma spread.
The unrest had mainly been concentrated in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), where he started serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court on Wednesday night.
Some COVID-19 vaccination sites and clinics in Gauteng and KZN were shuttered due to safety concerns, the Gauteng provincial government and an independent pharmacy association said, further delaying a sluggish immunisation campaign.
“What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a late-evening address on Monday.
He said 489 suspects in the two provinces had been arrested and all government agencies had been mobilised.
“We will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute those who perpetrate these actions and will ensure that they face the full might of our law.”