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Monday, 20 September 2021

South Africa president rallies base as riot cleanup goes on

The country was gripped by more than a week of chaos that claimed more than 200 lives as looters ransacked shopping centres and unidentified groups torched key industrial infrastructure and blocked trade routes

AFP , Sunday 18 Jul 2021
South Africa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, on a visit to Soweto, South Africa, Sunday July 18 2021. AP
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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa joined post-riot clean-up efforts on Sunday as his government warned against vigilantism and sought to avert racial conflict following the unrest.

The country was gripped by more than a week of chaos that claimed more than 200 lives as looters ransacked shopping centres and unidentified groups torched key industrial infrastructure and blocked trade routes.

The violence was the worst in post-apartheid South Africa and erupted after former president Jacob Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail for snubbing a corruption inquiry.

His trial for graft in a separate case is due to resume on Monday.

"We all admit there were lapses... we will gather ourselves and do a proper review," Ramaphosa told a crowd outside a mall in the Soweto township.

"People want to defend what we have in the form of democracy, our constitution and economy."

Ramaphosa is under mounting pressure as only a handful of the masterminds of what officials have called an attempted "insurrection", which caused an estimated $1 billion of damage, have been arrested.

When asked if he would shake up his ministers responsible for security he said: "We are reviewing the situation, yes."

Police Minister Bheki said on Sunday that three more suspected instigators of the unrest had been arrested bringing the total to four.

Access to basic necessities like food has become a pressing issue in the areas affected by looting, arson and violence as many stores were destroyed while others remain closed.

Many in the worst-hit KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province are now going hungry.

At a branch of the Grace family church in Durban, trestle tables were piled high with donated fresh vegetables and bread to prepare food parcels for those in need of food.

Vegetable farmer Katlego Meso, was stuck with 1.2 tonnes of peppers worth around 20,000 rand ($1,400, 1,180 euros) when he was advised not to deliver to a Johannesburg produce market because of the disorder.

He is now attempting to sell his stock in the local area around his 23 hectare farm in Tarlton northwest of Johannesburg, and will give away what he cannot sell.

"I won't get the price that I normally get," he told AFP.

 

'We are still scared'

Cele has warned against "vigilante acts" after residents of Phoenix outside Durban, a township of mostly Indian-origin South Africans, were accused of victimising their black counterparts.

"If we hear that people are being racially profiled at roadblocks set up in the area... (people) including police, are being intimidated, violated and in extreme cases people are being beaten up, and their cars are searched and torched (this) is simply criminal and won't be tolerated," he said in a statement late Saturday.

A taskforce of 10 detectives would be deployed to the area to investigate the deaths of 20 people during the mayhem, he added.

Of the 212 people reported killed nationwide, some were shot and others died in looting stampedes.

Alongside the human and economic toll, officials closed several beaches around Durban warning of possible contamination after a chemical spill at a factory set ablaze during the mayhem.

An operation was launched to clear hundreds of dead fish from a river in the uMhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve, AFP correspondents saw.

Pope Francis prayed for South Africa on Sunday, saying that violence had rocked the country "already hit by health and economic challenges because of the pandemic".

Many in industry, particularly tourism which accounts for 7 percent of GDP, worry that the violence will damage South Africa's reputation and set back economic progress.

Traffic was back to normal along a main highway linking the country's north to the Port of Durban which had been closed for days.

But businesses in Durban are seeking security assurances.

"In as much as we are over the hurdle now, we are still scared," Zanele Khomo of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry told AFP.

"The world is looking at us with those (negative) eyes, but we want to tell them that South Africa has a lot of good people and we have a lot of good stories to tell," said Siyanda Nxumalo, a headteacher in Durban, who helped to clear up the Dube Village Mall outside Durban following the unrest.

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