At least 117 persons have died and 1700 arrested in the unrest that has continued to rock South Africa for the eighth day.
Protests erupted last week Friday when former South African President Jacob Zuma, 79, turned himself in to authorities to serve a 15-month jail term for contempt of court. He had refused to appear at an anti-corruption commission to face several allegations, including bribery and fraud, which he has repeatedly denied.
However, the unrest widened into grievances over inequality and poverty
Aljazeera reports that more than 20,000 troops have been deployed to assist police in quelling week-long unrest, as the death toll soared to 117 people in the rioting and looting following the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, authorities said on Thursday.
In one of the largest deployments of soldiers since the end of white minority rule in 1994, the government said 10,000 soldiers were on the streets by Thursday morning and the South African National Defence Force has also called up all of its reserve force of 12,000 troops.
In a show of force, a convoy of more than a dozen armoured personnel carriers brought soldiers on Thursday into Gauteng province, South Africa’s most populous, which includes the largest city, Johannesburg, and the executive capital, Pretoria.
Buses, trucks, aeroplanes 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 a week of violence in mainly poor areas.
Aljazeera says more than 2,200 people have been arrested, the acting minister in the presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, told a news conference, adding that Johannesburg was now “relatively calm”.
Many have died in a stampede in the township of Soweto, Police Ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba told CNN. More than 1,200 others have been arrested in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal where thousands of people stole food, electric appliances, liquor and clothing from stores.
“The unrest has also disrupted hospitals struggling to cope with a third wave of COVID-19. They say they are running out of oxygen and drugs, most of which are imported through Durban.
“Some vaccination centres have been forced to shut.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa told leaders of political parties that parts of the country “may soon be running short of basic provisions” following disruption to supply chains.