Former South Africa cricketer AB De Villiers on Monday appealed for peace after violence erupted in various parts of the country over the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court.
Taking to Twitter, De Villiers wrote, "Our prayers go out to all affected by the terrible violence in SA. Please stay safe people. No better time to try and stick together as a nation and let the greater good overshadow the darkness."
Meanwhile, the South African government is all set to deploy troops to control the violence in the country. Initially, soldiers will be deployed in two provinces -- Guateng and KwaZulu-Natal (Zuma's home province), the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) announced on Monday.
Why is Zuma imprisoned?
Zuma is currently imprisoned in the Estcourt Correctional Centre for failing to obey a court order to testify at a judicial commission that is investigating allegations of corruption during his term as South Africa's president from 2009 to 2018. The 79-year-old politician, who denies corruption, handed himself in to police on Wednesday last week to begin his 15-month sentence.
Violence after Zuma's arrest:
Following his arrest, Zuma's supporters across the country have started demonstrations by blocking roads with burning tires and other obstacles. Shops were looted and buildings set on fire in the violent protests, which also claimed six lives so far.
The SANDF in a statement said it has "commenced with pre-deployment processes and procedures in line with a request for assistance received from the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure to assist law enforcement agencies deployed in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal provinces to quell the unrest that has gripped both the provinces in the last few days". "The deployment will commence as soon as all deployment processes are in place," it said.
The SANDF said its mandate is strictly to help keep police safe as they carried out their duties. The exact number of soldiers who will be deployed has not been announced yet, which the SANDF said would be released after law enforcement agencies have done an assessment of the situation.
Meanwhile, live telecasts on TV channels showed police personnel being outnumbered by the looters, who include both women and children. The video footage showed rioters carrying off huge furniture items from shops and looting pickup vans loaded with goods.
A number of shopping centres in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces have been stripped bare as looting goes on unabated. Even heavily fortified automated teller machines have been ripped apart and tens of thousands of currency notes looted.
Major banking group Nedbank has already announced the closure of all its branches across the country.
The violence by Zuma's supporters has been condemned across the board by the government, the opposition parties and civil society organisations.
They say the supporters are engaging in criminal action in the name of protests about the jailing of the former president.
President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed concerns
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned the violence that has been ravaging the country's main economic provinces for the past few days following the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma.
During a national address, Ramaphosa said, "Key infrastructure like national roads have been affected, slowing down the transportation of goods and services that keep our economy running." "Property has been destroyed. Cars have been stoned. People have been intimidated and threatened, and some have even been hurt. These acts are endangering lives and damaging our efforts to rebuild the economy," he said.
Ramaphosa also reacted to widespread allegations that the violence was ethnicity-based and targeting foreign businesses in the country, including those from other African countries and the Indian subcontinent.
"It is a matter of concern to all South Africans that some of these acts of violence are based on ethnic mobilisation," he said.
"While there are those who may be hurt and angry at this moment, there can never be any justification for such violent, destructive and disruptive actions.
"This must be condemned by all South Africans at all costs as we are a nation committed to non-racialism and non-tribalism that is underpinned by the diversity and unity of all the people of South Africa, whatever their language, culture, religious beliefs and race," the president said.
South African police arrest 62 after violent protests
The South African police said that they have arrested 62 people on Sunday in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng Province.
"62 people have been arrested as the police continue to respond to opportunistic criminality emanating from violent protests over the weekend in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng province," said Spokesperson for the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJOINTS) Col Brenda Muridili.
"The police are working closely with their respective local Metro police departments, have heightened visibility and remain on high alert in response to incidents of opportunistic criminality and violent protests in the two provinces over the weekend," she added.
She stated that they arrested people who were looting businesses and barricading roads in Johannesburg's Jeppe and Alexandra townships.
Muridili said that in another instance about 800 people attacked police, resulting in the shooting of police officers who have now received medical attention in hospital.
"A warning is issued to those circulating inflammatory messages, inciting violence and lawlessness, that they refrain from doing so. The possibility of criminal charges being instituted against such persons cannot be ruled out, particularly in the event of injury or death that may come as a result of any operational response by the security forces to these incidents of violence and opportunistic criminality," she said.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)