Authorities in South Africa said that rioting and looting continued on Tuesday, with the death toll rising to 32 as the military and police have struggled to deal with the violence across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.
The violence appeared to have been sparked by former President Jacob Zuma’s arrest for being in contempt of court, starting with protests over the decision. That later turned into looting and rioting, as video footage showed agitators and rioters blocking traffic and setting vehicles and buildings on fire.
KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala told a news conference that the deaths occurred mainly during stampedes as people looted food, electronics, alcohol, and clothing from shops.
“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,” said Zikalala. “No amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalize, and do as they please and break the law,” Police Minister Bheki Cele added at a news conference.
Some officials told the Reuters news agency that 45 people have been killed so far in the unrest, with 19 coming in Gauteng and 26 in KwaZulu-Natal.
WATCH: Armed citizens open fire on rioters in Durban, South Africa.pic.twitter.com/vfZVEHQteV
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In some instances on Monday and Tuesday, armed vigilante groups were seen firing at throngs of violent rioters and looters who were approaching them and throwing objects.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, as a result, said he would be deploying the country’s military in a bid to restore order following the days of violence.
“We will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute those who perpetrate these actions and ensure they face the full might of the law,” Ramaphosa said in a national address on Monday. “It is this rule of law that enables our society to function and our economy to develop in the interests of the people of South Africa.”
Ramaphosa noted that the protests may have started over legitimate concerns but criminal elements have now taken over.
The country’s economic situation also likely plays a factor as growing unemployment has left people desperate. Unemployment stood at a new record high of 32.6 percent in the first three months of 2021.
Reuters contributed to this report.