South Africa Calling Up Reserves and Deploying 25,000 Troops as Riots and Looting Continue

LUCA SOLA/AFP via Getty Images

The South African government is deploying some 25,000 troops and calling up reserves as riots and looting continue to rock the country, primarily in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

As of Thursday evening, there were a reported 117 fatalities connected with the disorder, precipitated by the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, 79.

Over 2,000 people were known to have been arrested, and 208 separate incidents of looting and vandalism were logged by the African National Congress (ANC) government, led by Zuma’s successor Cyril Ramaphosa.

The number of soldiers deployed to support the police already stood at 5,000 when Ramaphosa’s defence minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, “submitted a request for deployment of plus-minus 25,000” troops to him. Troop numbers on the streets hit 10,000 by Thursday, according to Reuters.

“All reserve members are to report for duty at first light tomorrow morning 15 July 2021 at their respective units,” army chief Lieutenant-General Lawrence Mbatha announced — the first time reserves have been called up in the former British Dominion in decades.

As things stand, the level of disorder in parts of South Africa has become so bad that armed vigilantes and security are taking their defence and the defence of their property into their own hands, including with live ammunition.

KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the province which has been most impacted by the violence until now, is home to a large Indian diaspora, with Indian news outlets claiming that “Indians in South Africa are now coming under attack. Shops and Businesses owned by members of the Indian diaspora have been looted and burned.”

Footage circulating on social media showing some in the community are attempting to restore order through force, and concerns are growing that they could become the targets of a general backlash as a result.

The Zulu king, Misizulu Zulu, has appealed for calm, saying that “The Indian nation here in KZN is the second largest outside of India” and noting that “We have lived in peace for many years alongside them.”

“Therefore I ask: Let us be understanding and thoughtful towards each other,” he said.

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