Chattanooga Times Free Press
Leader backs order in South Africa, vows to catch plotters
JOHANNESBURG — Standing before a looted mall and surrounded by soldiers, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed Friday to restore order to the country after a week of violence set off by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.
Visiting the port city of Durban in hard-hit KwaZulu-Natal province, Zuma’s home area, Ramaphosa said the chaos and violence in which more than 200 people died had been “planned and coordinated” and that the instigators will be prosecuted.
“We have identified a good number of them and we will not allow anarchy and mayhem to just unfold in our country,” he said. One person has been arrested for instigating the violence and 11 others are under surveillance, officials said.
As army tanks rolled by the trashed Bridge City mall, Ramaphosa said the deployment of 25,000 troops would end the violence and rampant theft that have hit KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.
South Africa’s unrest erupted after Zuma began serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court for refusing to comply with a court order to testify at a state-backed inquiry investigating allegations of corruption while he was president from 2009 to 2018.
Protests quickly escalated into theft in township areas. In Durban, rioters attacked retail areas and industrial centers where they emptied warehouses and set them alight. The burned-out shells still smoldered Friday.
More than 2,500 people have been arrested for theft and vandalism and 212 people have died, Ramaphosa told the nation later Friday. Many who died were trampled to death when shops were looted, said police.
“The events of the past week were nothing less than a deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy,” said a solemn Ramaphosa. “These actions are intended to cripple the economy, cause social instability and severely weaken — or even dislodge — the democratic state. Using the pretext of a political grievance, those behind these acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrection.”
Ramaphosa reiterated that those who instigated the unrest will be arrested and prosecuted.
“Those responsible for organizing this campaign of violence and destruction have not yet been apprehended and their networks have not yet been dismantled,” said Ramaphosa. “(But) we know who they are and they will be brought to justice.”