Burned tires, cut roads, fires and looting: sporadic violence has agitated South Africa in recent days, first in Zulu country and then in Johannesburg.
Since Friday, the police have made 62 arrests: 37 in the east, in the province of Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) and 25 in the poor neighborhoods of the economic capital, according to a statement released Sunday at midday.
In KZN, protests of discontent erupted after the incarceration on Thursday of former president Jacob Zuma, convicted of contempt. Mr. Zuma, 79, sentenced at the end of June, drags many corruption scandals. But the figure of the anti-apartheid veteran remains popular, especially in his region of origin where he embodies traditional values.
The national road connecting Durban to Johannesburg was blocked on Friday by protesters, especially near Escourt prison where he is located, and 23 trucks were set on fire.
This unrest, initially sparked by the fate of Mr. Zuma, incorporates the economic desperation felt by a large segment of the unemployed population as the country suffers new restrictions linked to a deadly third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Ramaphosa expresses concern
Sunday evening, during a televised speech devoted to the pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his concern about this violence “Sporadic but increasingly violent”. “People have been intimidated or injured, some may have died”, he said. “Some people probably feel hurt and angry, but nothing justifies such destructive actions”, which may still plague a weakened economy, pleaded the president.
In the KZN, the police were “Busy” this weekend, explained his spokesperson Jay Naicker, evoking “Criminals and opportunistic individuals” taking advantage of the tense climate to “Get rich” : Several shops were looted around Durban. Stores selling alcohol, closed for two weeks due to Covid restrictions, have been targeted, but police have managed to protect them, he said.
In Johannesburg, where the poor beg at every crossroads in this confined southern winter, gatherings, banned, have degenerated into violence and looting, giving rise to 25 arrests. In Jeppe, the police say they have dispersed a crowd of 300 people who had erected barricades on a major road, before looting businesses.
In the township of Alexandra, on the border with the most affluent district of the city, nearly 800 rioters clashed with the police during the night, wounding a policeman by bullets.
The police remain mobilized in these two regions, “On alert” on the main axes and hot spots.