South Africa looting LIVE: Police 'nowhere to be seen' as riots 'out of control' – 72 dead

South Africa looting LIVE: 'Absolute chaos' erupts– death toll hits 70

South Africa looting LIVE: ‘Absolute chaos’ erupts– death toll hits 72 (Image: GETTY)

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Crowds clashed with police on Tuesday night as widespread looting and vandalism engulfed South Africa once again. The unrest started last week after former President Jacob Zuma, 79, handed himself over to start a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court.

Zuma still has support in his home province KwaZulu-Natal and some poor, rural areas where his followers believe he is the victim of a political witch-hunt.

Protests that followed Zuma’s arrest have widened into looting and general anger at the vast inequality seen in South Africa.

The poverty that remains 27 years after the apartheid is a major reason hundreds of shops have been targeted in mass lootings.

South Africa Lootings LIVE

Looters take away few items in a vandalised mall in Vosloorus (Image: GETTY)

South Africa Looting Live

A policeman guards people suspected of looting (Image: GETTY)

Sky News Africa Correspondent John Sparks described the situation as “completely out of control” claiming the police were “nowhere to be seen”.

“The government is going to have to set up some sort of state of emergency because this is clearly out of control.

“There is no sense of self-restraint here, there is no respect for law and order,” Mr Sparks reported from Durban.

“It is very, very difficult for them to police this – they are completely overwhelmed,” he added.

READ MORE: South Africa riots latest: ‘Things are getting scary’

South Africa Looting LIVE

A man fires a hand gun in the air to disperse a mob of alleged looters (Image: GETTY)

South Africa Looting LIVE

Soldiers have been sent onto the streets to try to suppress the unrest (Image: GETTY)

At least 72 people have died during the unrest.

Ten people were killed in a stampede while looting a shopping centre in Soweto on Monday.

A video circulating social media shows a baby being thrown to safety from a burning building during a riot.

Half of the country’s 35 million adults live below the poverty line and young people are disproportionately affected by unemployment, according to Statistics agency data.

Poverty has been exacerbated by severe social and economic restrictions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Soldiers have been sent onto the streets to try to suppress the unrest.

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19:45 Ten times as many soldiers to be sent to crush unrest

Up to 25,000 soldiers will be deployed in the two provinces where security forces are struggling to supress days of looting, rioting and violence, its defence minister has told a parliamentary committee.

A military surge of that size would increase tenfold the number of soldiers deployed in the hot spots of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.

18:59 ‘It is out of control… but we do not need a state of emergency’ says political economist

Depty Chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs, Moeletsi Mbeki, has told Sky News that the unrest in South Africa was inevitable. 

He said: “South Africa has been described – and I am one of the people who describe it – as a powder keg.

“A huge number of people living in poverty who are unemployed, any spark in South Africa could have exploded.

“This is a consequence of that.”

Moeletsi Mbeki, the brother of the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. 

“It is totally out of control, everything has been destroyed,” he added.

Mr Mbeki suggested that a key reason for discontent was vast wealth inequality and corruption. 

He claimed that Jacob Zuma remained popular among impoverished South Africans because of “his style of leadership which was to present himself as coming from the common people”. 

Mr Mbeki said he did not believe a state of emergency was necessary due to the unrest only occupying two out of nine provinces. 

18:14 Hospitals running out of oxygen and drugs

The National Hospital Network which represents 241 public hospitals said it is running out of oxygen and drugs.

Most of these supplies are imported through South Africa’s port city Durban which was heavily targeted by looters.

In badly affected areas, staff have been unable to get to work in essential sectors due to the disruption.

South Africa was already under strain from the worst COVID-19 epidemic in Africa.

17:56 South Africans rally to protect property as violence rages

South Africans rallied on Wednesday to protect their property after days of looting and destruction, lending a hand to struggling security forces.

Residents in some areas have turned suspected looters into police, blocked entrances to malls and in some cases armed themselves as vigilantes to form road blocks or scare them away – indicating public disapproval of the widespread looting.

The violence appeared to have stopped in some areas on Wednesday, but in others there was renewed burning and looting.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is considering sending more troops onto the streets.

17:38 Insurance claims from unrest up to $680 million

Claims for damage and theft from businesses targetted by civil unrest are estimated to be between $481 million and $683 million, the head of the only insurer covering political violence in the country said.

Sasria is a state-owned insurer set up after private firms stopped covering risks relating to political violence due to unrest during apartheid.

The company has received hundreds of millions in claims so far, its managing director Cedric Masondo said, adding this was expected to rise significantly.

“This is the worst in terms of financial magnitude,” he said.

Days of looting and vandalism has hurt thousands of businesses and severely damaged major infrastructure in the worst civil unrest in decades.

Violence has been concentrated in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s homeland, as well as the country’s economic and financial centre of Johannesburg and surrounding areas in the Gauteng province.

17:30 More than 1,750 people arrested in unrest

More than 1,750 people have been arrested in connection with days of looting, arson and violence, according to a senior minister in the presidency’s office.

The government was engaging with the consumer council to prevent food shortages arising from rampant pillaging of shopping centres, malls and warehouses, cabinet minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said.

Despite this effort, food and fuel supplies are running short. 

Roy Walsh

Roy Walsh

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