Looting, arson, and riots broke out in South Africa following the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, who was sentenced to prison last week, with the death toll hitting 117 by Thursday. The chaos is the worst the nation has seen since the apartheid system was ended in 1994.
Violence first erupted in Zuma’s home region of KwaZulu-Natal, where much of the nation’s Zulu population, the largest ethnic group in the country, is centered. Both Zuma’s son and the Zulu monarch have made calls for peace.
“My father’s people are committing suicide,” King Misuzulu Zulu said on state television this week. “When food cannot be delivered because trucks and warehouses are burned, our people will go hungry.”
The violence, he stated, “has brought shame to all of us.”
The nation’s largest port city, Durban, has been particularly hard-hit. Much chaos has also been concentrated in the Alexandria township, a suburb of Johannesburg in the Gauteng province.
The South African government has deployed 25,000 troops as of Wednesday to assist police who are working to contain widespread looting and arson across the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.
One CBS News correspondent reported witnessing an entire street in Alexandria where every single store had been completely gutted.
As of Thursday, 117 people had been killed, many of them trampled to death amid the anarchy, and more than 2,200 people had been arrested.
In one devastating video, a woman was forced to throw her child out of a burning shopping mall in Durban as a group of Good Samaritans below reached out for the toddler. Both mother and child were later reported safe, by the grace of God.
Private citizens have indeed been making a noted effort to not only clean up after the chaos, but even to do their best to subdue it themselves. Many are expressing frustration that the military was failing to do so on their part, as well as anger at the looters for the senseless violence and theft.
While some opportunistic South Africans ravage through businesses on looting sprees that will end in nothing but the further impoverishment of shop owners already hard hit by the COVID pandemic, other law-abiding South Africans are taking the protection of their communities into their own hand as the state struggles to get control over the violence.
From business owners to native monarchs, the message from those who care about South Africa’s stability and ability to survive an undeniably trying time is clear: the looters are destroying their own country, something which will most certainly not end well.
Although South Africa has its own unique and notoriously difficult history of extreme systemic racism, there are many parallels here to our own nation’s struggle with race, and yet again, we see the futility and pointlessness of expressing outrage by targeting compatriots who have no relationship whatsoever to the cause of the grievance.
Pray for those who are doing what they can to restore order and preserve human life in South Africa.