South Africa: 72 People Killed in Looting Stampedes, Riots

TOPSHOT - A member of the South African Police Services (SAPS) fires rubber bullets at rioters looting the Jabulani Mall in Soweto, southwest of Johannesburg, on July 12, 2021. - South Africa said it was deploying troops to two provinces, including Johannesburg, after unrest sparked by the jailing of ex-president …
GUILLEM SARTORIO/AFP via Getty Images

Mob violence and looting stampedes killed at least 72 people across South Africa as of Tuesday following days of rioting in response to the recent jailing of ex-South African President Jacob Zuma for defying a court order during an investigation into alleged corruption while he was in office.

“The death toll climbed to 72 from rioting in South Africa on Tuesday, with many people trampled to death during looting at stores,” the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

“Many of the deaths in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces occurred in chaotic stampedes as thousands of people stole food, electric appliances, liquor, and clothing from stores,” Police Maj. Gen. Mathapelo Peters said in a statement issued July 13.

Peters said that in addition to investigating the deaths of people “crushed” during stampedes, police were also probing “deaths caused by explosions when people tried to break into ATMs, as well as other fatalities caused by shootings.”

“Shopping malls and warehouses have been ransacked or set ablaze in several cities,” Reuters reported on July 14, “Mostly in Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal province, especially the Indian Ocean port city of Durban, and the financial and economic centre Johannesburg and surrounding Gauteng province.”

South Africa’s government has deployed 2,500 federal soldiers to aid outnumbered local police as they attempt to stave off some of the rampant looting across the affected provinces and districts. Federal security forces have arrested at least 1,234 people in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces for looting and vandalism so far, but have largely failed to contain the widespread lawlessness.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa “met with leaders of political parties on Wednesday to discuss ways to address the unrest,” according to Reuters.

“President Ramaphosa welcomed proposals made by political leaders and said expanded deployment of the South African National Defence Force was being addressed,” according to a statement from the South African president’s office.

The mayor of Ethekwini, the municipality that includes the city of Durban, estimated on Wednesday “the total loss in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for the region would be over R20 billion [about $1.4 billion]” based on the current rate of property damage and production loss.

“Some 40,000 businesses had been hit by the unrest,” Ethekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said on July 14.

“A large portion of these may never recover,” he told reporters on Wednesday. Ethekwini’s destroyed businesses threaten to eliminate nearly 130,000 associated jobs.

South Africa’s Daily Maverick online newspaper reported similarly grim prognostications for KwaZulu-Natal’s economy on Wednesday.

“KwaZulu-Natal’s manufacturing sector has been obliterated. Its retail sector is dead,” the Daily Maverick declared. “Hospitals are under protection, medicine cannot be sourced, pharmacies have had their shelves stripped, mothers are searching for formula via WhatsApp groups.”

“Thousands of jobs have been lost. Scores of companies and businesses will not reopen,” the newspaper predicted.

“It would take the most blindly optimistic investor to return to a province such as KwaZulu-Natal. Even before this insurrection, mismanagement and plundering by officials and politicians could not be contained,” according to the local news outlet.

Protests that have since devolved into riots and looting sparked last week shortly after ex-South African President Jacob Zuma began serving a 15-month prison sentence on July 7 for contempt of court during an investigation into corruption during his time in office from 2009-2018.

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