Ten people were killed in South African riots over ex-president Jacob Zuma's imprisonment.
Rioting sparked by former South African President Jacob Zuma's imprisonment erupted into violence today, as shopping malls in Johannesburg were looted, major roads were blocked by burning tires, and police and military struggled to maintain order.
President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed in a solemn address broadcast to the nation on Monday night (local time) that the police and army would restore order, and he urged all South Africans to work cooperatively for peace.
The unrest began last week in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, following Mr Zuma's imprisonment for contempt of court.
What began as relatively minor road closures in Mr Zuma's neighborhood grew in severity and spread to Gauteng, South Africa's most populous province, including Johannesburg, the country's largest city.
To assist the police, the South African National Defence Force has been deployed.
At least ten people have been killed and more than 490 arrested in "rare instances of public violence in our democracy's history," Mr Ramaphosa said.
The root causes of poverty and unemployment
Mr Ramaphosa stated, without mentioning Mr Zuma, that "violence may indeed have its origins in the pronouncements and actions of individuals with a political agenda, as well as in expressions of frustration and anger... However, what we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people inciting chaos solely to conceal looting and theft."
He stated that the rioting is being fueled by South Africa's high rate of poverty and unemployment.
"This moment has emphasized what we already knew: that our society's level of unemployment, poverty, and inequality is unsustainable," Mr Ramaphosa said.
"We cannot expect a lasting and durable peace unless we create jobs and build a more just and equitable society in which all South Africans have an equal opportunity to participate freely and equally."
He pleaded with all South Africans not to engage in violence.
"We will defeat those who seek to destabilize our country collectively," he stated.
"We will unite as one people in our opposition to violence and in our unwavering commitment to peace and the rule of law."
Riots erupted, and journalists were robbed.
Earlier this year, retail center looting occurred in several of Johannesburg's poorer neighborhoods, including Benmore, Jeppestown, Vosloorus, and Soweto, where the Jabulani and Dobsonville malls were targeted.
Retail establishments in Alexandra, east of Johannesburg, were also targeted, as were journalists covering the riots for the public South African Broadcasting Corporation and the news channel Newzroom Afrika.
Numerous malls, car dealerships, and retail centers in more affluent areas of Johannesburg, including Rosebank and Kempton Park in eastern Johannesburg, closed early despite being unaffected.
In KwaZulu-Natal, residents stole appliances from stores in the Mariannhill and Umlazi areas, including microwave ovens, television sets, and clothing.
Zuma's detention sparks violence
Mr Zuma began serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court last week, sparking the violence.
He defied a court order to appear before a state-backed commission investigating allegations of corruption during his presidency from 2009 to 2018.
Mr Zuma's appeal was heard by the Constitutional Court, the country's highest court, yesterday.
Four deaths occurred in Gauteng and two occurred in KwaZulu-Natal, police Colonel Brenda Muridili said.
Authorities said police and national security forces increased their presence in both provinces to assist in quelling the violence.
Police have warned that anyone encouraging rioting through social media may be arrested and prosecuted.
The way political protests against Mr Zuma's imprisonment devolved into widespread rioting and looting, analysts said, demonstrates South Africa's widespread poverty, unemployment, and economic disparity.
Many of the rioters were simply impoverished, according to Susan Booysen, research director at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection.
"It's such a mixed bag because some people are simply taking advantage to obtain items they could not obtain previously," Ms Booysen explained.
"Poverty and inequality exist. Additionally, we know that some are criminals seeking to profit." Frequently, legitimate protests are used for this purpose."
Criminal opportunists are implicated.
According to Ralph Mathekga, a researcher at the University of the Western Cape, the political demonstration had been surpassed.
"South Africa is a very complex nation, and there is no doubt that when there is protest action, criminal elements will take advantage of the situation," Mr Mathekga told the News24 website.
"We must take into account the country's socioeconomic situation. Almost the entire population is unemployed." Without some element of criminality, protest action in South Africa is extremely rare."