JOHANNESBURG (AP) – The South African President Cyril Ramaphosa stood in front of a looted shopping center and was surrounded by soldiers. On Friday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to restore order to the country after a week of violence sparked by the detention of former President Jacob Zuma.
On a visit to the port city of Durban in the hard-hit KwaZulu-Natal province, home of Zuma, Ramaphosa said the chaos and violence that killed more than 200 people had been “planned and coordinated” and that the instigators would be criminalized tracked.
“We have identified a large number of them and we will not allow anarchy and chaos to spread in our country,” he said. One person was arrested for inciting violence and 11 others are under surveillance, officials said.
As army tanks rolled through the destroyed Bridge City shopping mall, Ramaphosa said the deployment of 25,000 soldiers would end the violence and rampant theft that has plagued the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.
The riots in South Africa broke out after Zuma served a 15-month jail sentence for disobeying the court for refusing to obey a court order to testify in a government-sponsored investigation into corruption allegations during his 2009-2018 term.
The protests quickly escalated to thefts in the township areas. In Durban, rioters attacked retail spaces and industrial centers, emptied warehouses and set them on fire. The burned out grenades smoldered on Friday.
More than 2,500 people were arrested for theft and vandalism and 212 people died, Ramaphosa told the nation later on Friday. The police said that many of the dead were trampled to death when shops were looted.
“The events of the past week were nothing less than a conscious, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy,” said Ramaphosa solemnly. “These actions are intended to paralyze the economy, cause social instability and severely weaken or even displace the democratic state. Under the pretext of a political complaint, those behind these acts tried to provoke a popular uprising. “
Ramaphosa reiterated that those who started the riot will be arrested and prosecuted.
“Those responsible for organizing this campaign of violence and destruction have not yet been arrested and their networks have not yet been dismantled,” said Ramaphosa. “(But) we know who they are and they will be brought to justice.”
He assured the South Africans that the country has sufficient food and that it will be distributed to areas where supplies have been disrupted. He said disruptions to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign would be resolved quickly.
Ramaphosa said the cost of the unrest to the South African economy will be “billions and billions of rand (dollars)”. Extensive damage has been done in 161 malls and malls, 11 warehouses, 8 factories and 161 liquor stores and vendors, he said.
The army rollout in KwaZulu-Natal is supposed to restore order in the coastal province within a few days. In the province of Gauteng, which also includes Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city and industrial center, a restless calm has returned.
Two strategic highways connecting the port of Durban with Johannesburg and Cape Town reopened on Friday after being closed for a week. The military will patrol the highways, but drivers have been warned to use the roads with caution.
“It is vitally important to proceed with extreme caution and to remain vigilant at all times,” said the highway authority on Friday in a tweet.
The highways are vital transport routes for fuel, food and other goods. Authorities were working to reopen the railway line to the strategic ports of Durban and Richard’s Bay in the Indian Ocean.
One of the country’s largest food manufacturers, Tiger Brands, said it has ceased food production in its hardest-hit locations in KwaZulu-Natal. The company said it lost nearly 150 million rand (about $ 10 million) in shares in the violence.
After order was restored in Gauteng, authorities began holding residents accountable. Johannesburg police have begun recovering stolen property and arresting suspects.
According to the South African Banking Risk Information Center, which warned the bills were being won, there has been an increase in people trying to dispense cash tinted green, suggesting the money was stolen from hundreds of ATMs, who were broken into during the riots will not be honored.
To restore respect for the law, the South African Council of Churches has proposed that the government grant a limited amnesty of two weeks during which people can return stolen property to the police and not be charged.
“We need leaders of all faiths everywhere, civic and community leaders, traditional leaders in rural communities, and business and trade unions in the workplace who all pull together and find a way to restore,” said Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, general secretary of the ecumenical group , in an open letter.
Rapid action must be taken against those who planned the strategic attacks, said Ronnie Kasrils, experienced anti-apartheid leader and former secret service minister in the cabinet.
“These riots are viewed by the government, secret services and the president as an actual conspiracy by a group in support of Jacob Zuma … to unleash civil unrest and really bring the country to its knees,” said Kasrils. “There is a need to root out the conspirators and bring the allegations and evidence forward.”
AP journalist Mogomotsi Magome contributed from Johannesburg.