The crisis surrounding former South African President Jacob Zuma’s detention intensified on Tuesday, when police announced that 72 people had been killed and 1,234 people had been arrested in connection with the incident.
On Tuesday, dozens were reported slain as crowds clashed with police and destroyed or burned retail centers around South Africa, as grievances sparked by the former President’s imprisonment snowballed into the worst violence in decades.
Following Zuma’s arrest last week, protests have turned into an outpouring of rage about the inequity that still exists 27 years after apartheid ended.
Security officials said the government was striving to put an end to the violence and looting that had expanded from Zuma’s home region of KwaZulu-Natal to Johannesburg, the country’s largest metropolis, and the province of Gauteng surrounding it.
As protests devolved into looting and violence, the South African Police Service (SAPS) stated late Tuesday that 72 people had died and 1,234 had been arrested in the last several days.
The court proceedings against Zuma, who is facing various corruption charges, have been viewed as a litmus test for post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to uphold the rule of law.
The former president, who has denied involvement, was sentenced to prison for contempt after refusing to attend a high-level bribery investigation. The violence has escalated since Zuma filed a challenge to his 15-month sentence in the country’s highest court on Monday.
Soldiers have been dispatched to assist the police in their efforts to “restore order.”
Any clash with soldiers risks fueling Zuma’s and his allies’ assertions that his replacement, Cyril Ramaphosa, is waging a politically motivated crackdown on them.
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