Visual by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah
South Africa is witnessing the worst episode of riots and violence in years triggered by the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma. Last week, 79-year-old Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court after he failed to appear in court to testify as part of a government inquiry probing allegations of corruption during his term as president from 2009 to 2018.
Since then, the country had to deploy 25,000 troops to assist police in quelling the week-long riots and violence which led to the deaths of over 70 people.
The protests in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu-Natal escalated into looting in township areas, although it has not spread to South Africa’s seven other provinces where police are on alert.
According to Sputnik, The death toll from riots in the South African provinces KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng has increased to 212 while more than 1,200 people have been arrested. South Africa’s consumer goods regulatory body estimates that more than 800 shops have been plundered. Stores and warehouses in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal provinces have been ransacked, devastating supply chains on which food, fuel and medicines depend in Africa’s most industrialized economy.
Among these riots that have hit South Africa’s Durban and Johannesburg, thousands of businesses owned by members of the Indian community have been looted and destroyed and an unknown number of Indian-origin people are said to have been killed. The unrest that started off as a protest after former president Jacob Zuma was found guilty of contempt of court and jailed, somehow turned violent against Indian-origin people.
The party chief of South Africa’s Minority Front (MF) Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi has said that the “Indian community is devastated” by the ongoing unrest in her country. Shameen Thakur is a member of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature, a province with around seven per cent of the population of Indian origin
The Indian government has been in touch with the South African Government to ensure the safety of the Indian community facing uncertainty in the country, the Consulate General of India in Durban said on Friday.
“We are in touch with the South African Government and its concerned agencies to ensure the safety of lives and livelihoods of the Indian community facing uncertainty in South Africa,” said the Consulate General of India in Durban.
External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar also spoke to his South African counterpart, Dr Naledi Pandor, who has asserted that the early restoration of normalcy and peace was her government’s overriding priority.
Indian Embassy in South Africa tweeted, “The High Commissioner of South Africa in New Delhi has also updated the Government of India on the situation in South Africa. The High Commission of India in Pretoria, Consulate General of India in Durban and India in Johannesburg are in contact with community leaders and have offered support and assistance for distressed families.”