The South African government will deploy up to 25,000 soldiers in an effort to curb the deadly violence plaguing two major provinces in recent days.
Up to 72 people have died during violent rioting in the wake of the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, including 10 people who died in a stampede in the township of Soweto.
Find out more about the unrest in South Africa in the video above
“We have now submitted a request for deployment of 25,000 members,” Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula confirmed.
Arson and looting have become widespread in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, where Zuma is from, and Gauteng, where police and the military have been facing off against protestors.
Zuma’s imprisonment after failing to appear at a corruption tribunal triggered initial protests by his followers.
However, the unrest has since widened in scope to encompass many South Africans’ anger at the poverty, inequality, and hardship that still exists in the country 27 years after the end of apartheid.
“It’s not about Zuma, it’s about poverty,” one man said.
“I guess the real reason is because we actually have nothing.”
‘It’s not about Zuma, it’s about poverty.’
A heavier military presence is being brought in as local businesses are looted or torched and destroyed altogether.
With food and fuel beginning to run short, some locals in the two provinces are turning suspected looters into the police, Reuters reports.
In some cases, business owners are beginning to arm themselves and form roadside vigilante groups in an effort to block rioters and protesters ransacking their premises.
Security forces have arrested more than 1000 people since the protests began.
Earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation to call for calm and announced the military would be deployed in the impacted provinces.
He acknowledged the protests and looting may have started with political grievances, but said “opportunistic” criminal elements had taken over.
He also warned continued protests and looting could further undermine the nation’s COVID response and vaccination rollout, with several vaccine sites forced to stop administering doses over the violence.
– with CNN