As the death toll rises to 117, South Africa increases troop deployment against looters.
The death toll in South Africa’s turmoil climbed to 117 on Thursday, as the country called up its army reserves in an attempt to suppress looting that has fueled fears of shortages and delivered the country a crushing economic blow.
Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, South Africa’s acting minister of the president, told a news conference that Johannesburg, the country’s economic capital, was now “pretty calm,” but the southeastern state of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), which was the epicenter of the violence, “remains turbulent.”
The ministers of defense, security, and police, as well as top army generals, were deployed to KZN to assess the situation and supervise the increased deployment of security troops.
The administration announced on Wednesday that it will dispatch 25,000 troops to deal with the crisis, ten times the number it had first dispatched.
In orders issued overnight as the disturbance entered its sixth day, army leader Lieutenant-General Lawrence Mbatha declared, “All reserve members are to report for duty at first light tomorrow morning 15 July 2021 at their respective units.”
“By this morning, 10,000 boots were already on the ground,” Minister Ntshavheni stated.
Stores and warehouses in Johannesburg and KZN have been plundered, wreaking havoc on Africa’s biggest industrialised economy’s supply networks for food, petrol, and pharmaceuticals.
According to South Africa’s consumer products regulating organization, more than 800 stores had been robbed. During the unrest, at least 2,203 individuals have been arrested.
On Thursday, looting continued in KZN, but the situation was calmer in Johannesburg, where volunteers from the city’s townships assisted with cleanup efforts.
Residents waited in line to buy food and other necessities at a mall in Alexandra township, north of Johannesburg, that had been spared looting. Twenty troops monitored the floors.
A cleanup operation was held at the Jabulani shopping centre in Soweto with the help of volunteers.
“The usage of the army is quite beneficial,” community leader Musa Mbele-Radebe, 30, told AFP, “since our people are quite terrified of the army compared to the police.”
“It only needed four soldiers to keep a crowd of a thousand (people) in this mall under control.”
The disturbance began a day after former President Jacob Zuma, who is popular among the poor, was sentenced to 15 months in prison on July 8 for refusing to testify before a commission investigating corruption during his time.
Protests swiftly devolved into looting, with mobs pillaging retail malls and dragging goods away while police stood by, seemingly powerless to intervene.
On Monday, as the crisis worsened, the armed forces intervened. Brief News from Washington Newsday.