Stores and warehouses in South Africa were hit by looters on Tuesday for a fifth day running despite a move by President Cyril Ramaphosa to deploy troops in a bid to quell unrest that has claimed 72 lives.
As large-scale pillaging erupted in the economic capital of Johannesburg and southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, the crisis burst into the political arena, where South Africa’s main opposition accused radicals of stoking the unrest.
The armed forces were sending 2,500 soldiers to help the police, who have been utterly overwhelmed.
But these numbers are dwarfed by the more than 70,000 troops deployed to enforce last year’s coronavirus lockdown, and only handful of soldiers were seen at some shopping centres.
The raging unrest first erupted last Friday after former president Jacob Zuma started serving a 15-month term for contempt after snubbing a probe into the corruption that stained his nine years in power.
By the weekend it started spreading to Gauteng province.
“The total number of people who have lost their lives since the beginning of these protests …has risen to 72,” police said in a statement late Tuesday.
Most of the deaths, the forces, said “relate to stampedes that occurred during incidents of looting of shops”.
Others were linked to shooting and explosions of bank automatic cash machines.
With the recent deployment of soldiers, police said “more boots have been on the ground”.
The number of arrests have risen to 1,234, although many thousands have been involved in the ransacking sprees.