Looting, Casualties, And Civil Unrest In South Africa

Civil unrest across South Africa has led to severe looting and violence, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces. Crowds have looted and set fire to over 200 shopping centres, whilst trucks, factories, warehouses, and other infrastructure have also been targeted. On 16 July, roughly 25,000 troops were deployed in the largest deployment of soldiers since the end of the Apartheid. As of 16 July 2021, “at least 117 people have been killed in the violence and over 1,234 people have been arrested.” There are concerns over a state of emergency being declared and basic food supplies being cut short. Further, the unrest throughout the country has increased the spread of COVID-19 and has disrupted vaccination programs.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the country said that “the events of the past week were nothing less than a deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy” and that the “constitutional order of [the] country is under threat.” Ramaphosa also expressed concerns over the “fake news and misinformation” being spread through social media that have “sought to inflame racial tensions and violence.” Further, Police Minister Bheki Cele has warned that “no amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people give the right to anyone to loot, vandalise and do as they please and break the law.” State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said officials were “busy sorting fact from fiction” after receiving information that former security agents linked to [former president] Zuma had instigated the violence.

In early July, former president Jacob Zuma was jailed for 15-months after being convicted of contempt in court during a corruption inquiry of his government. Zuma pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering, and money laundering, as reported by ABC. This event was the catalyst for these riots, and they demand his release. Legal experts believe his chances of escaping imprisonment are slim. The country is also suffering from low-income levels and unemployment. The latest government figures released in 2015, as reported by ABC, a record that half of the population lives below the poverty line. The situation has only declined since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. ABC also records that unemployment in early 2021 stood at 32.6%, a new record high for the country.

The violence across the country is causing severe concerns for the safety and security of the people of South Africa. Government officials are likely planning on deploying more military personnel to quell the riots; however, it is likely this will cause more violence. There are unfortunately no signs of the violence ending in the country without more casualties. Furthermore, as the violence continues, the spread of the pandemic continues. These events are placing the population at severe risk, and it is up to the government to ensure the unrest subsides as quickly and as peacefully as possible.