South African government plans troop surge to quell unrest – reports
- Worst violence in years erupts after Zuma’s jail
- Anger over post-apartheid inequality underlies riots
- Residents organize to protect property, confront looters
- Presidency plans new military deployment
DURBAN, South Africa, July 14 (Reuters) – South Africa plans to deploy up to 25,000 troops in two provinces where security forces struggle to quell days of looting, arson and violence, his defense minister told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, according to local news channel eNCA.
A military surge of this magnitude would increase the number of troops deployed to hot spots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces tenfold, where police and military have been battling unrest for days.
“We have now submitted a request for deployment of (approximately) 25,000 members,” according to a video recording by Defense and Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula broadcast on eNCA.
Triggered by the jail of ex-President Jacob Zuma last week after he failed to appear for a corruption probe, the protests have spread to an orgy of looting and a wave of anger in the face of the difficulties and inequalities that persist in South Africa 27 years after the end of apartheid. Read more
More than 70 people have been killed in the unrest, the worst in South Africa in years, and hundreds of businesses destroyed. Food and fuel supplies are dwindling. Read more
Shopping malls and warehouses were ransacked or set on fire in several towns, mainly in Zuma’s house in KwaZulu-Natal province, in particular the port city of Durban in the Indian Ocean, and the financial and economic center of Johannesburg. and the surrounding province of Gauteng. Read more
But as a sign of public reaction, residents of some areas on Wednesday turned suspected looters into police officers, blocked entrances to shopping centers and, in some cases, armed themselves as vigilantes to form roadblocks or scare them away.
In Vosloorus, south of Johannesburg, minibus taxi operators, many of them armed, fired bullets into the air to scare off looters.
“We cannot just allow people from nowhere to come and loot here,” said Paul Magolego, spokesman for the Vosloorus taxi association, adding that the taxi drivers had run out of business since Monday. because of the unrest.
Stressing the dangers inherent in such vigilantism, a 15-year-old boy was killed by a stray bullet in Vosloorus, according to a Reuters photographer who saw the body. Magolego said taxi owners arrived at the scene after his death.
In the township of Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, a Reuters correspondent saw soldiers go door-to-door to confiscate stolen items, with the help of civilians opposed to looting.
Citizens armed with guns, many of South Africa’s white minority, blocked streets to prevent further looting in Durban, Reuters TV footage showed.
Others were forming online groups to help clean up and rebuild devastated neighborhoods.
” WE HAVE NOTHING “
Security forces say they have arrested more than 1,200 people, while President Cyril Ramaphosa met with political party leaders on Wednesday to discuss the unrest.
Violence appears to have abated in some areas, but in others fires and looting have resumed.
Some wealthy Durban residents have chartered small planes and helicopters out of town, a Reuters photographer reported.
Although sparked by Zuma’s imprisonment, the unrest reflects growing frustration over the failure of the ruling African National Congress to tackle inequality decades after the end of white minority rule in 1994 ushered in democracy. .
“It’s not about Zuma, it’s about poverty,” said a man who gave his name as Elijah, as soldiers confiscated stolen items from his home in Alexandra.
“I grabbed things that I could take like these cold drinks and paint. I guess the real reason is because we actually don’t have anything.”
Half the population lives below the poverty line, according to the latest government figures from 2015, and rising unemployment since the start of the coronavirus pandemic has left many people desperate. Unemployment hit a new high of 32.6% in the first three months of 2021.
The unrest has also disrupted hospitals struggling to cope with a third wave of COVID-19.
The National Hospital Network (NHN), representing 241 public hospitals already strained by Africa’s worst COVID-19 outbreak, said it was running out of oxygen and drugs, most of which are imported via Durban, as well. than food.
The mayor of Ethekwini, a municipality that includes Durban, estimated that 15 billion rand ($ 1 billion) was lost in property damage and another billion in lost inventory.
“I call on the Zulu nation to withdraw from participating in the destruction of our country,” Zulu King Misuzulu said in a speech – many affected areas are predominantly Zulu, the nation to which Jacob Zuma belongs.
Zuma, 79, was convicted last month for defying a court order to testify during an investigation into high-level looting during his nine years in office until 2018.
He has pleaded not guilty in a separate case on bribery, fraud, racketeering and money laundering charges.
($ 1 = Rand 14.7161)
Additional reporting by Nqobile Dludla, Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Tanisha Heiberg, Promit Mukherjee, Alexander Winning and Tim Cocks in Johannesburg, and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town Writing by Tim Cocks Editing by Angus MacSwan and Toby Chopra
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