South Africa is witnessing violent protests in the aftermath of the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma. Over the last few days, supporters of Zuma have taken to streets across Johannesburg and other provinces looted shops, and blocked highways in response to Zuma’s sentencing and imprisonment.
On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed the military to control the protesting crowd and restore calm in the country. Addressing the nation, Ramaphosa called on the public to maintain calm after several people died in violent clashes and many were arrested.
“We will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute those who perpetrate these actions and ensure they face the full might of the law,” Ramaphosa said during the national address.
Ramaphosa warned that the ongoing protests and looting could undermine the national response against the pandemic and vaccination efforts to protect all citizens. Several vaccination centers were forced to closed down due to increasing violence across various regions.
This crisis has emerged at a time when the South African government has been ensuring all possible measures to vaccinate eligible groups against COVID-19 amid prevailing health concerns due to mutated virus strains.
President Ramaphosa was facing criticism from the opposition over the lack of efforts to control the unrest. Condemning the violence, the President on Monday issued a stern warning to demonstrators violating lockdown regulations.
“Those who are involved in acts of violence will be arrested and prosecuted. Those found guilty of breaking the lockdown regulations will receive the stipulated penalty. This will be done without fear or favor,” Ramaphosa said.
Last week, violent protests erupted in various provinces of South Africa, including KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Major highways, shops, and businesses were shut down after protesters burned vehicles on roads and vandalized properties. According to police, more than 60 people have been arrested so far in view of the protests. The unprecedented turmoil has also disrupted the vaccination drive and efforts to curtail the spread of the virus in the country.
Last week, the Constitutional Court sentenced 79-year-old Zuma to 15 months in prison for failure to appear before an anti-corruption commission that is investigating corruption allegations during his presidential regime from 2009 to 2018. Denying corruption allegations against him, the former leader has been uncooperative with the legal process in the case.
After the court order, Zuma handed himself in to police on Wednesday to begin his jail term. He has been admitted to Estcourt Correctional Centre in his home province KwaZulu-Natal.