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Death toll rises to 32 in South Africa as rioting and looting continues

Riots began last week following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma.

Image: Andre Swart/PA Images

32 PEOPLE HAVE NOW died in South Africa during rioting that broke out following the imprisonment of the country’s former President Jacob Zuma.

Police and the military are struggling to quell the looting and violence in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala told the press on Tuesday morning that many of the deaths occurred in stampedes as people looted food, electric appliances, alcohol and clothes from retail centres. 

“Yesterday’s events brought a lot of sadness. The number of people who have died in KwaZulu-Natal alone stands at 26. Many of them died from being trampled on during a stampede while people were looting items,” he said. 

In Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province which includes the largest city, Johannesburg, six people have died, officials said. 

The deployment of 2,500 soldiers to support the South African police has not yet stopped the looting, although arrests are being made in some areas in Johannesburg, including Vosloorus in eastern Johannesburg.

Looting continued on Tuesday in Johannesburg shopping malls in township areas including Jabulani Mall and Dobsonville Mall in Soweto. There were also reports of continued looting in centres in KwaZulu-Natal.

The violence started in KwaZulu-Natal last week as protests against the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, who began serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court.

He was convicted of defying a court order to testify before a state-backed inquiry probing allegations of corruption during his term as president from 2009 to 2018.

The sporadic pro-Zuma violence spiralled into a spree of criminal theft in poor township areas of the two provinces, according to witnesses. So far the lawlessness has not spread to South Africa’s other nine provinces.

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The Constitutional Court, the country’s highest court, heard Zuma’s application to have his sentence rescinded on Monday.

Zuma’s lawyer presented his arguments that the top court made errors when sentencing Zuma to prison.

After 10 hours of testimony on Monday, the court judges said they would study the arguments and announce their decision at a later date.

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