Attacks, looting in S. Africa leaves 72 dead

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Friction arose between protesters and security officers in South Africa on Tuesday, leaving 72 persons dead as looters, frustrated by poverty, scramble to get into shopping malls.

“The total number of people who have lost their lives since the beginning of these protests … has risen to 72,” according to the police late Tuesday.  

The police statement said most of the deaths were recorded in the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal and were “relate to stampedes that occurred during incidents of looting of shops”, as people flooded stores to steal food, electric appliances, clothing, and even liquor.

Other deaths were related to bank ATMs explosions and shootings.

Some 27 deaths from KwaZulu-Natal province and 45 from Gauteng province are being investigated, the police said.

The government has acted to make sure that the looting will stop, security forces said.

“No amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalise and do as they please and break the law,” said Police Minister Bheki Cele during a press conference.

Last week, supporters of ex-president Jacob Zuma started the demonstrations over his detainment, which also sparked violence. The situation, however, worsened by public rage over the prolonged poverty and inequality in the country after the apartheid ended 27 years ago.

Restrictions brought about by the current pandemic have made the economic situation even worse.

Late Monday, President Cyril Ramaphose said that he was deploying forces to augment the police in stopping the unrest and “restore order”, Al Jazeera reported.

The police fell short in number to stop the violence as troops came to help in the critical areas on Tuesday. Looting and attacks shook KwaZulu-Natal , Zuma’s home province, as well as in Gauteng province where Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city, is located.