South Africa to deploy 25,000 troops to curb violence and looting

The South African government planned to deploy 25,000 army personnel after days of widespread looting and violence.

At least 72 people died and over 1,700 people have been detained since the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma sparked the country’s worst unrest in decades.

Hundreds of shops and businesses were looted and the government says it is acting to prevent food shortages.

Citizens are arming themselves and forming vigilante groups to protect their property from the rampage.

Over 208 incidents of looting and vandalism were recorded on Wednesday, the government said, as the number of troops deployed doubled to 5,000.

However, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said she had submitted a request for the deployment of 25,000 soldiers to the two provinces hit by violence – KwaZulu-Natal, where Durban is located, and Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg.

Troop deployments are authorised by the president.

She did not say when the extra troops would be on the streets.

Government had been under pressure to increase boots on the ground to quickly put a lid on the violence pummeling an already struggling economy.

The country’s consumer goods regulatory body estimated that more than 800 retail shops had been looted.

Food Crisis

In Johannesburg’s Soweto township, bread was being sold from a delivery truck outside a major shopping mall as stores have either been looted or shut due to fears of vandalism.

The lootings have “seriously compromised our energy security and food security”, said Bonang Mohale, chancellor of University of the Free State.

The violence has also disrupted the coronavirus vaccine rollout and medicines deliveries to hospitals, said Mohale, echoing similar reports from hospitals.

The country, which has recorded more than 2.2 million infections, is in the midst of a brutal virus third wave.

Christo van der Rheede, executive director of the largest farmers’ organisation, AgriSA, said producers were struggling to get crops to market because of the logistical “shambles”.

He warned that if law and order were not restored soon, “we are going to have a massive humanitarian crisis”.

Sugarcane fields were torched in KwaZulu-Natal, the main cane-growing region, while elsewhere cattle were stolen.