South African riots and looting leave at least 200 dead

There’s been a substantial breakdown in law and order in South Africa over the past two weeks. Looting and riots have spread around the country and an estimated 200 people have been killed. The current government is suggesting the rioting was planned by loyalists of former president Jacob Zuma. Zuma was president of South Africa for nine years and was dogged with various charges of corruption for his entire career. Zuma resigned under pressure in Feb. 2018 and prosecutors announced corruptions charges against him the following month. Zuma attempted to have the charges against him dismissed but South Africa’s high court refused in 2019.

In December of 2020 Zuma was ordered to testify to a commission looking into corruption. But in January of 2021, Zuma failed to show up. On June 29, he was found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months in prison. He handed himself over to police on July 7.

Mr. Zuma, 79, voluntarily surrendered on Wednesday, 40 minutes before a midnight deadline for the police to hand him over to prison officials. He was driven out of his compound in a long convoy of cars and taken to the Estcourt Correctional Center, the corrections department said. The arrest followed a week of tense brinkmanship in which the former president and his allies railed against the high court’s decision, suggesting, without evidence, that he was the victim of a conspiracy.

Those comments whipped up Mr. Zuma’s supporters, who stationed themselves by the hundreds outside his rural homestead in Nkandla on Sunday and said that the police would have to kill them if they wanted to get to the former president…

During a rally on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Zuma stood on a packed stage to address his followers, who squeezed shoulder to shoulder, hanging on his every word. They laughed at his jokes and chanted struggle songs with him. They waved signs with messages like, “We demand our land that was stolen 573 years ago back,” and, “We refuse to be governed by apartheid spies.”

Zuma’s arrest seems to have been the spark that set off what followed. The current president claims the riots are part of an organized effort to get Zuma pardoned or perhaps even to return him to the presidency.

Investigators believe the unrest last week, which killed more than 200 and caused massive damage across a swath of the country, was deliberately provoked as part of a broader strategy by political opponents to force president Cyril Ramaphosa to pardon Zuma or even step down…

On Friday, Ramaphosa, in his third televised speech in six days, said it was clear the unrest had been an attempt to provoke an insurrection. “The constitutional order of our country is under threat. These actions are intended to cripple the economy, cause social instability and severely weaken – or even dislodge – the democratic state,” said the president, who ousted Zuma in 2018…

“The second phase is to burn resources, [then] they will be able to wage a serious war and hide behind the people. They can mobilise the masses if people are hungry. A serious military operation is yet to come. People go hungry because there is no food, and that is when they will launch the next phase,” one official source told the Mail and Guardian, a respected local newspaper.

In any case, what has already happened has been very severe. CNN published this report on Wednesday. This isn’t a few dozen looters, this is hundreds and hundreds of them.

Shopping malls have been a major target for looters as this NBC report points out.

In some places the shop owners are taking up baseball bats and guns to keep the looters out.

This mall located in the stronghold of Zuma support was set on fire:

Finally, a somewhat amusing response to the chaos at one mall. Prior to the arrival of looters, they covered the floor with gallons of oil. As you’ll see, this presented a real problem to any looters trying to run though the area.