South African President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed the military Monday to restore law and order after days of violent protests and mass looting following the imprisonment of former leader Jacob Zuma. The latest round of social unrest is some of the worst since the mid-1990s.
The widespread looting and social unrest started after last week’s incarceration of former President Zuma. Ramaphosa addressed the nation Monday evening, pleading for calm and for looters to consider the consequences of their actions.
“We are therefore mobilizing all available resources and capabilities to restore order,” Ramaphosa told the nation.
“Let me be clear: we will take action to protect every person in this country against the threat of violence, intimidation, theft, and looting.”
“What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality,” the president said. He also warned that unrest could undermine efforts to quell the virus pandemic.
“Our vaccination program has been severely disrupted just as it is gaining momentum.”
The president also warned , “there’s a huge risk of food insecurity and medication insecurity.”
His comments on national television come 24 hours after COVID lockdowns were extended for another two weeks.
The deployment of the army and other forces have been sent to several townships in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and the North West, as the local police have been overwhelmed by the violence.
“The disquiet about Zuma’s arrest is being used as an excuse for sheer, opportunistic looting,” said Busisiwe Mavuso, the chief executive officer of Business Leadership South Africa, which represents some of the largest corporations in the country.
“The anarchy on the ground puts yet another nail in our ailing economy’s coffin.”
According to Bloomberg, More than 200 shopping malls were looted on Monday, and retailers had lost an estimated 2 billion rand ($137 million). There’s also been widespread looting of warehouses.