South Africa Deploys 25,000 troops to quell unrest

South Africa Deploys 25,000 troops to quell unrest


South Africa Deploys 25,000 troops to quell unrest

A soldier of South African National Defense Force carries a baby in his arm in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 20, 2020.

The South African government on Wednesday sought to deploy around 25,000 troops to curb unrest, now in its sixth straight day, amid fears of food and fuel shortages as disruption to farming, manufacturing and oil refining began to bite.

Seventy-two people have died and more than 1,200 people arrested, according to official figures, since former president Jacob Zuma began a 15-month jail term, sparking protests that swiftly turned violent.

Looting has hit supply chains and transport links especially in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, impacting goods and services around the country.

The government said 208 incidents of looting and vandalism were recorded Wednesday, as the number of troops deployed doubled to 5,000.

But Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula later told parliament she had “submitted a request for deployment of plus-minus 25,000” soldiers. Troop deployments are authorized by the president. She did not say when the exta troops would be on the streets.

Government had been under pressure to increase boots on the ground to quickly put a lid on the violence pummelling an already struggling economy.

The country’s consumer goods regulatory body estimated that more than 800 retail shops had been looted. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa met leaders of political parties and cautioned that parts of the country “may soon be running short of basic provisions following the extensive disruption of food, fuel and medicine supply chains.”

State-owned logistics operator Transnet declared a “force majeure” on Wednesday – an emergency beyond its control – on a key rail line that links Johannesburg to the coast because of the unrest.