HomeAfricaSouth Africa: 72 dead in worst political violence since apartheid

South Africa: 72 dead in worst political violence since apartheid

In one heart-stopping moment, a toddler was rescued from a building set ablaze by rioters.

South Africa is grappling with the worst political violence the country has seen since the end of the racist apartheid regime. The death toll after five days of violent riots and looting, sparked by the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, hit at least 72 on Wednesday, CBS reports.

Some of the most violent unrest has been in Alexandra township, a suburb of Johannesburg, where hordes of looters have reportedly spent days ransacking retail stores, grabbing anything they can get their hands on. Outnumbered and overwhelmed, the police have struggled to contain the violence.

Provided by CBS News South African police and a soldier walk inside a looted shop, July 13, 2021, in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. / Credit: James Oatway/Getty

Police, backed up by soldiers deployed as the mayhem escalated this week, have fired rubber bullets and teargas, but the looters are undeterred. Patta saw one road in Alexandra where not a single shop had escaped attack. They were all gutted.

Dozens have been killed and injured in the chaos. In one heart-stopping moment, a toddler was rescued from a building set ablaze by rioters.

The violence was triggered by anger over the arrest and imprisonment of Zuma last week. He was jailed for refusing to appear before a commission investigating corruption during his nine-year tenure.  

His supporters took to the streets to voice their anger, but it boiled over into anarchic rage fueled by persistent poverty that’s been exacerbated by a deadly third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“If they start shooting there will be war, and that’s the thing we don’t want here in South Africa,” said one man on the streets. “South Africa is a peaceful country.”  

But for five straight days, that peace has been shattered by the deadliest violence the country has seen in the more than 27 years since apartheid ended.

CBS

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