Johannesburg, South Africa – South Africa is facing the worst unrest in decades, as protests against the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma have led to increased violence and looting.
At least 72 people have been killed for six days in a row in violent clashes between police and protesters and when the crowd was robbed. More than 1,200 people have been arrested so far.
It started out as a protest at first Imprisonment of Zuma on Friday, out of contempt of court, complaints arose about the inequalities and poverty that have shaken the country.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has sent 2,500 troops to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, at the epicenters of the two troubled provinces, to help police who are largely outnumbered and unable to cope with the ongoing chaos.
“Communities left in the most unbalanced society in the world feel angry with the system and are losing tremendously,” political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana told Al Jazeera.
“This anger has been under the skin for decades, and we could experience a revolution of the poor that is exploited by criminals who take advantage of revolt and unrest.”
‘We are hungry’
Thousands of companies have had to try or close their doors for fear of violence.
“We’re not open because they’re going to steal equipment that has cost us decades and 14-year-olds have to stay home until they’re safe,” said Humphrey Jeffries *, owner of the truck component business in Johannesburg’s Central Business District. Al Jazeera.
“After 48 years of work, we are facing redundancies and even real opportunities for closure. We managed to overcome the COVID-19 madness of the initial blockades, but that’s too much now. ”
So far, 200 shopping malls and shopping centers in all countries have had to close, with food supplies and medicines, flat-screen TVs and clothes taken away during the robbery.
The Jabulani shopping center in Soweto, the largest municipality in the country, has been completely destroyed by robberies and vandalism. The business owners tried to rescue the small stock left under the watchful eye of the security forces as they were getting to protect the crowd in protest.
“People went into the shops and started stealing because we want to release former president Jacob Zuma,” one of the protesters, Msizi Khoza, told Al Jazeera.
“But even if the president does that, [looting] we will continue because we are hungry and we need things to survive. “
The South African economy has been somewhat reclaimed since the beginning of COVID-19 with the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021 that the nation’s treasury will reach 3.1%.
But unemployment has risen by more than 32 per cent in a society ranked as one of the most unequal in the world, the Gini coefficient is 63 and there is more than half of the population living in poverty.
The country’s economic recovery has also been shaken by another blockade, as South Africa is battling a third wave of coronavirus that has killed more than 2,500 people in the past week.
“People are under a lot of pressure and crime and illegality have always been a risk in the South African economy,” economist Xhanti Payi told Al Jazeera.
“But this kind of instability hinders any attempt to rebuild this economy and the poorest will lose the most, as more jobs are lost and government finances are unable to help people who do not enter the poverty line.”
Even after the deployment of the armed forces, unrest continues to accumulate and has now spread to the provinces of North Cape and Mpumalanga.
When the country’s supply chains are rapidly damaged, the shortage of fuel, food and medicine is expected to be a few days away.
“The main transportation artery from Africa’s largest port in Durban to South Africa’s economic capital Johannesburg is closed to hold 6,000 trucks a day,” transportation and logistics expert Mike Schussler told Al Jazeera.
“So this will not only affect this country, but it will have a negative impact on the rest of the South African regions and across the continent.”
Security analyst Helmoed Heitman told Al Jazeera that the unrest was partly driven by the actions of a desperate population living in poverty, which has also been fueled by political opportunism.
“There are two sides to this: people who have no hope for the future and very little to lose by protesting and robbing, those who join the political clash over the country’s future will benefit former President Jacob Zuma. Violence and breaking the law and order.”
* Protesters changed their name for fear of being targeted.