WATCH: Vigilantes Open Fire on Rioters as Mob Violence Rocks South Africa

Violence is sweeping parts of South Africa, with the government deploying the military to support police in some provinces amid looting and several deaths, according to developing reports.

Mass looting is taking place in KwaZulu-Natal province, in particular, home of former South African president Jacob Zuma, 79, who is facing corruption charges and has been sent to prison for contempt of court after refusing to attend an inquiry into “state capture” when he held office.

Riots and looting, reportedly initiated by supporters of Zuma, who is appealing his sentence, are particularly pronounced in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, North Coast, South Coast, and Inland areas of KwaZulu-Natal, according to local reports, with the police also requiring military support in Gauteng province.

A prison break was also attempted in KwaZulu-Nata, with fires being lit at the Umzinto Correctional Centre and one inmate reported dead in the resulting fracas:

While a full picture of what is going on in the post-apartheid state is still emerging, the aforementioned prison inmate is not the only reported fatality.

Abdi Ismaeel, a spokesman for the Somali community in Durban, has claimed that at least three Somalis have been killed since Monday.

A mosque has also been set on fire in Mayville Durban.

“They were not fighting, they were running for their lives. They were innocent people. We don’t know how they died,” Ismaeel said, alleging that there are “no police” — and indeed that “Police are themselves are targets. You call police they can’t come.”

This squares with reports from Pietermaritzburg, where at least two malls have been looted and one raised by fire, with the BBC saying that riot police who attempted to disperse looters with rubber bullets were met with live ammunition in return.

Police also came under fire on a freeway near a mall in Durban, where many malls, stores, and at least one factory have been looted, with one officer being hit in the leg.

Perhaps most alarming are reports of ordinary people “forming armed groups to protect businesses, homes in KwaZulu-Natal”, and videos on social media which purport to show armed, ad hoc citizens’ militias and private security out on the streets.

One particularly striking video, widely shared by a number of verified accounts but not fully authenticated as of the time of publication, appears to show a group of men confronting a large mob with firearms.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will “address the nation” on the evening of July 12th “on government’s response to persistent public violence in parts of the country”, according to the presidency’s official account on Twitter.

Jessie Duarte, deputy secretary-general of the governing African National Congress, has alleged the violence “is planned. It is someone sitting somewhere and planning it.”

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