Johannesburg, Jul 14 (EFE).- Violence has yet to abate in several parts across South Africa, despite the deployment of military patrols to help quell unrest in the hardest-hit areas.
On Tuesday evening, the nationwide death toll from the violent protests and looting that gripped the country last week following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma increased to 72, according to the latest figures issued by the police. Over 1,200 arrests have been made so far.
Violent acts were recorded on Wednesday in two regions: Zuma’s eastern home province of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng province, which is home to Johannesburg and Pretoria and is the political and economic center of Africa’s most developed nation.
“We are pushing the gear of prevention, that where we are, we don’t go beyond, in terms of destruction,” South African Police Minister Bheki Cele said during a visit to a destroyed shopping center in Mamelodi district, according to local media outlets.
Cele added that law enforcement and police intelligence stopped the burning of a hospital government buildings in KwaZulu-Natal.
Cele, who in recent days has faced sharp criticism for security forces’ inability to halt the wave of vandalism, also repeatedly urged communities affected by violence not to take the law into their own hands.
The disturbances initially erupted when Zuma was taken into custody last Thursday to begin serving his prison sentence for refusal to testify in an inquiry centered on corruption during his 2009-2018 rule.
But riots over the weekend became less political and more about pre-existing social problems, including extreme inequality, high crime levels in the country and dissatisfaction with the government’s Covid-19 response.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that the chaos will have an impact on food security and the health situation in South Africa, provoking an economic reverse and slow-down of the vaccination scheme.
The Health Ministry confirmed Friday that there have been interruptions to the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the riot-hit areas and that people have had difficulty accessing other basic medical services and medications for diabetes, HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis.