The riot and looting of businesses and shopping malls in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal are having a massive effect on the country’s economy. So far, the rioting in the country has claimed some 72 lives as police and military fire rubber bullets and stun grenade to halt the looting and rioting.
According to News24, over $70 million worth of property and equipment have been damaged in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. News24 further reports that rioters are targeting economic centers and infrastructure, including shopping malls, stores, and major highways, forcing companies to suspend operations.
According to Reuters, many small, medium, and micro-businesses are not insured, thereby compounding any attempt to get money to restart. “We small businesses, nobody wants to insure us here in Jules (street), it’s a high-risk area. When you call insurance (companies) they say no this is a high-risk area,” a business owner affected by the looting told Reuters.
The South African Property Owners Association in a statement said more than 200 malls have so far been looted or destroyed and over 600 stores burnt or damaged. According to the liquor industry, more than 200 liquor shops have been looted in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng provinces, the hotbed of the unrest, Reuters reported.
The unrest started after Jacob Zuma, a former president of South Africa, handed himself over to authorities on Wednesday to begin his 15-month sentence. Zuma was admitted to Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal last Wednesday. The 79-year-old was handed the jail term on June 29 after failing to appear before a corruption probe. It became the first time in South Africa’s history that a former president had been sentenced to prison.
Many of the deaths in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces “relate to stampedes that occurred during incidents of looting of shops”, the police said in a statement on Tuesday. Thousands of people stole food, electric appliances, liquor, and clothing from stores. Some of the deaths were also due to shootings and explosions of bank ATMs, officials said, adding that the government was working to ensure the violence did not spread further.
“No amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people give the right to anyone to loot, vandalize and do as they please and break the law,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told a news conference.
Although the violence was triggered by the jailing of Zuma, it was fuelled further by frustration over poverty, inequality and the economic effects of Covid-19 restrictions, reports said.
The former president was given five days to turn himself in. If he refused to do so, the police were given until the end of last Wednesday to arrest and bring him in. Zuma had initially refused to hand himself in, but the Jacob Zuma Foundation in a statement on Wednesday said he had “decided to comply”.
In February, Zuma failed to attend before a corruption investigation conducted by Raymond Zondo, the deputy chief justice. The investigation is looking into accusations of high-level graft. The veteran politician has denied wrongdoing.
The corruption investigation was launched by Zuma himself, under pressure from the ruling African National Congress, just before he was deposed in 2018. But he only testified once, in July 2019, before staging a walkout a few days later. He refused to return to court on multiple occasions, citing medical reasons and preparations for a new corruption trial as justifications. In November, he reappeared for a brief appearance but departed before being questioned.
Zuma challenged his jail term in South Africa’s top court on Monday. Aljazeera reports that judgment was reserved until an unspecified date.