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South Africa: Riots catch law enforcers sleeping on the job

By Carien du Plessis
Posted on Monday, 19 July 2021 13:00, updated on Tuesday, 20 July 2021 08:26

An armed policeman patrols as Police Minster Bheki Cele visits Phoenix, a neighbourhood severely affected by unrest and racial tensions near Durban, South Africa, Saturday, July 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Shiraaz Mohamed)

Divisions in South Africa's intelligence services meant that a five-day spree of violence and looting took law enforcement agencies by surprise, following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma on 7 July.

At least 212 people died, and more than 2500 were arrested after at least 161 malls, 11 warehouses and 8 factories were looted. The damage is estimated to be worth R15bn ($1bn) and will cost the economy even more.

The riots were concentrated in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal but also spread to parts of Gauteng. Most shops in Durban were destroyed, leaving people queuing for hours for basic necessities such as bread and fuel. Police identified 12 instigators but haven’t named them and only one has been arrested.

Admission of failure