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45 killed as Zuma’s arrest spreads violence in South Africa

More than 45 people were killed as crowds clashed with police and ransacked, burned shopping malls in South Africa on Tuesday as grievances unleashed by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma boiled over into the worst violence in years.

On the streets, protesters hurled stones and police who responded with rubber bullets.

Protests 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 Johanesburg. They deployed soldiers onto the streets to try to contain it, but stopped short of declaring a state of emergency.

“No amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalise and do as they please and break the law,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told a news conference.

Cele said 757 people had been arrested so far. He said the government would act to prevent it from spreading further and warned that people would not be allowed “to make a mockery of our democratic state”.



The bodies of 10 people were found on Monday evening after a stampede at a Soweto shopping mall, premier David Makhura said.

Hundreds of looters raided warehouses and supermarkets in Durban, one of the busiest shipping terminals on the African continent and a major import-export hub.

Aerial footage from local channel eNCA showed black smoke rising from several warehouses, while debris lay strewn.

Troops were moving into flashpoints on Tuesday as outnumbered police seemed helpless to stop the unrest. Columns of armoured personnel carriers rolled down highways.

Zuma, 79, was sentenced last month for defying a constitutional court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018.

The legal proceedings have been seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law.

But any confrontation with soldiers risks fuelling charges by Zuma and his supporters that they are victims of a politically motivated crackdown by his successor, Ramaphosa.

The violence worsened as Zuma challenged his 15-month jail term in South Africa’s top court on Monday and the judgement was reserved.