Rioting triggered by the imprisonment of former South African President Jacob Zuma escalated on Monday as shopping malls were looted, major roads were blocked by burning tires and the police and military struggled to contain the violence.
The unrest started last week in KwaZulu-Natal province after Zuma was imprisoned for contempt of court.
What began as fairly small-scale blocking of roads in Zuma’s home area intensified and spread to Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province, including Johannesburg, the country’s largest city.
One shop owner in Katlehong, a large township in the Gauteng Province, stood in disbelief inside her shop that was looted on Monday.
“With all that has happened here how are we now going to provide for our children? I arrived and found my shop in this state and all that I’m left with is this umbrella,” Joyce Minsi said.
Looting of retail centres broke out in several areas of Johannesburg, including Benmore, Jeppestown, Vosloorus, and Soweto, where the Jabulani and Dobsonville malls were hit.
Retail stores in Alexandra, east of Johannesburg, were also affected, and journalists covering the riots for the public South African Broadcasting Corporation and news channel Newzroom Afrika were robbed of their equipment.
A major mall and car dealerships around the affluent Rosebank area closed as protesters were reported in the area.
Other retail centres in the east of Johannesburg, including Kempton Park, also closed Monday.
In KwaZulu-Natal, people took appliances, including microwave ovens, television sets and clothing from stores in the Mariannhill and Umlazi areas.
The violence began last week when Zuma began serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court.
He defied a court order to testify before a state-backed inquiry probing allegations of corruption during his term as president from 2009 to 2018.