South African government has ordered the military to stop four days of rioting, looting and arson with at least seven deaths following the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma for 15 months by the Constitutional Court for contempt.
The killings resulted from confrontations between police and the demonstrators in Gauteng and Zuma’s KwaZulu-Natal home province, with looting and the burning of buildings, vehicles and sundry properties continuing on Monday.
The Constitutional Court was expected to hear Zuma’s appeal for a review of his sentence later on Monday.
The apex court, jailed him for refusing to appear to answer corruption charges against him during his presidency from 2013 to 2018, when he was forced to resign by his ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Zuma, 79, an anti-apartheid hero, remains popular, especially in his native KwaZulu-Natal province where hundreds of his supporters had attempted to stop his arrest by forming a “human shield” in his compound before he surrendered to a nearby Correctional Centre.
Police confirmed arresting hundreds of the protesters, with some major roads in Johannesburg closed because of the protests.
Dozens of cars were set alight over the weekend in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal, where protests erupted a day after Zuma was imprisonef. A purported picture of Zuma in a yellow prison uniform went viral.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was due to address the nation late Monday. He had earlier called for a “peaceful protest” during a speech on Sunday.
“While there are those who may be hurt and angry at this moment, there can never be any justification for such violent, destructive and disruptive actions,” he said.
Zuma faces more charges related to the Gupta “State capture” scandal.
His legal troubles might have triggered the latest violence, but the real culprit are the high youth unemployment, steep crime rates, socio-economic inequality and hardships accentuated by the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Rainbow nation, which is no stranger to protests.