South Africa riots, looting death toll approach 50; calls to declare ‘state of emergency’

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There are calls for a state of emergency to be declared in South Africa following widespread violence and looting. Hardly hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa appealed for calm and announced the deployment of the SANDF to the hardest hit areas on Monday night, mobs of people were already back on the streets, vandalising businesses.

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala told the press on Tuesday morning.
“Yesterday’s events brought a lot of sadness. The number of people who have died in KwaZulu-Natal alone stands at 26. Many of them died from being trampled on during a stampede while people were looting items,” (Jailed ex- President Jacob Zuma is from the KwaZulu-Natal province).
According to CBS news, in South Africa’s most populous province of Gauteng, which includes the largest city, Johannesburg, at least six people had died, officials said early on Tuesday. But that was before another 10 bodies were discovered following looting in the Johannesburg township of Soweto.

The deployment of 2,500 soldiers to support the South African police hadn’t stopped the rampant looting on Tuesday, although arrests were being made at some areas in Johannesburg.

What had been sporadic pro-Zuma violence spiraled into the current spree of criminal theft in poor, township areas of the two provinces. The lawlessness had not spread to South Africa’s other nine provinces as of Tuesday.

South Africa is currently in a state of disaster due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the declaration of a state of emergency in the country would give the state power to temporarily suspend rights as it is needed to manage the emergency. “Well, a state of disaster doesn’t allow for the derogation of any rights, every single right is protected. Under the state of emergency, there is a list of rights that may not be derogated from,” UCT’s Professor Cathy Powell said.

Meanwhile on Monday, the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation called for restraint. The foundation said it watched in horror as the unrest led to deaths and destruction. The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation doesn’t believe all the destructive behaviour witnessed over the past several days since former President Jacob Zuma was jailed was linked to his incarceration.

But where violence stems from him being jailed, the foundation has urged communities to consider whether these acts do Zuma’s cause any good as they only devastate lives and livelihoods. The organisation believes much of the rioting is driven by desperation and hunger as far too many South Africans have been pushed over the edge by the knock to the economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. The foundation points to data from the National Income Dynamics Study, Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey, which shows 13 million people in South Africa are unable to feed themselves, among them are three million children. ref: EWN/CBS/wire reports