South Africa’s army has begun deploying 25,000 troops to assist police in quelling the weeklong riots and violence sparked by the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma.
In the largest deployment of soldiers since the end of white minority rule in 1994, the South African National Defence Force has also called up all of its reserve force of 12,000 troops. Trucks, armoured personnel carriers and helicopters are being used to transport soldiers to trouble spots in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, which have seen a week of violence in mainly poor areas.
The violence erupted last week after Zuma began serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court for refusing to comply with a court order to testify at a state-backed inquiry investigating allegations of corruption while he was president from 2009 to 2018.
The protests in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu-Natal escalated into a spree of theft in township areas, although it has not spread to South Africa’s seven other provinces, where police are on alert.
The armed patrols appear to have succeeded in bringing stability to Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province, which includes Johannesburg, the country’s largest city. Army troops stood guard at the large Maponya mall in Soweto, which was closed.
Volunteer groups cleaned up shattered glass and debris from shops that had been stormed and looted in Johannesburg’s Soweto and Alexandra townships.
The unrest, however, continued in KwaZulu-Natal province where several factories and warehouses were smouldering Thursday after being targeted in arson attacks. There were renewed attacks Thursday on shopping centres in KwaZulu-Natal, which is Zuma’s home province.