Riots In South Africa Leave More Than 100 Dead After Former President Zuma's Arrest

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Riots In South Africa Leave More Than 100 Dead After Former President Zuma's Arrest

At least 117 people have so far been killed and more than 2,200 arrested during riots in South Africa.

The riots come after the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma who was arrested for contempt. At least 25,000 South African troops deployed across major cities. More than 2,200 people have been arrested for theft and vandalism and 117 people have been killed, according to the acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. According to police claims, many people were trampled to death in stampedes when shops were being looted. Others were murdered by fellow rioters and armed militias protecting shops.

 

 

Disruption

After Zuma's arrest his supporters have turned to looting and violence. The protests have now become a generalized communal rage over inequality. The unrest is being blamed on rising poverty and restrictive COVID19 measures that have left many people unemployed or hungry. However, criminal elements exist among the crowds, who are taking advantage of the unrest. The riots are also threatening food supplies as looters have hijacked trucks carrying produce preventing them from delivering to markets. Furthermore, the riots have disrupted the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and essential healthcare services such as the collection of chronic medication by tuberculosis, HIV, and diabetes patients.

 

 

Government response

In a statement, the government said it was working to halt the violence and looting, which has so far spread from Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal province to Gauteng province outside Johannesburg. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced troops would be sent to disturbance areas and “restore order”.  The government had deployed 10,000 soldiers were on the streets by Thursday morning and they are patrolling alongside police, and the South African National Defence Force had also called up all of its reserve force of 12,000 troops to assist anti-riot operations.

 

 

In a show of strength, a convoy of more than a dozen armored personnel carriers brought soldiers into Gauteng province, South Africa’s most populous, which includes the largest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria. Buses, trucks, airplanes and helicopters were also being used to move the large deployment of troops to trouble spots in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal province that have seen violence in mainly poor areas. 

 

What triggered the riots? 

The former South African President Jacob Zuma turned himself over to police on July 8th, 2021, to begin serving a 15-month prison term.


 
Why is Zuma going to prison?

The former President Zuma, 79, was ordered to prison by the Constitutional Court for contempt. Zuma refused to testify before a judicial commission investigating widespread allegations of organized crime in government during his term as president of South Africa, from 2009 to 2018. The judicial inquiry into organized crime in government during Zuma's term as president heard damaging testimony from former Cabinet ministers and top executives of state-owned corporations. According to the testimony, Zuma manipulated Cabinet appointments and lucrative contracts with members of the criminal Gupta family. The Constitutional Court found him in contempt of court for refusing to appear before an investigative commission and sentenced him to prison for refusing to appear.

 

Begging for mercy

Hundreds of his supporters gathered at his home over the weekend and vowed to prevent his arrest but were dissuaded from doing so and left. Zuma also applied to the Constitutional Court to have his sentence rescinded, and his case will be heard on July 12. Attorneys for Zuma requested, in a last-minute plea to avoid going to prison, that his arrest be postponed until a regional court can rule on his request. Zuma's attorneys also asked the acting chief justice to block the arrest of the police, claiming the arrest would put his life at risk. Upon receiving his sentence last week, Zuma had also sought to avoid arrest by filing two legal actions.

 

Other crimes

On a separate issue, Zuma is standing trial for organized crime-related charges, alleging corruption during a 1999 arms deal, in which he allegedly accepted bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales. In that case, his financial adviser has already been convicted and imprisoned. In 2006, Zuma was acquitted of rape charges dating back to 2005 after the court found the sexual encounter to have been consensual. Years later, Zuma became President in 2009 until he was forced from office in 2018 due to his administration's involvement with organized crime and rampant corruption.

 

Hero to zero

Zuma was previously known as an anti-apartheid hero and even helped resolve communal violence issues that were threatening to collapse South Africa. But after years in politics and a series of criminal cases associated with him, he has fallen from grace and has gone from hero to villain. 


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