South Africa’s president says calm has been restored to most places
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday the unrest that has ripped through his nation in the past week was stabilizing and calm has been restored to most of the affected areas, but the destruction will cost the country billions of rand.
Ramaphosa was addressing the nation over the rioting that broke out in several parts of the country last week after his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, was jailed for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry.
The unrest swiftly degenerated into looting which has destroyed hundreds of businesses and killed over 200 people, driven by widespread anger over the poverty and inequality that persist nearly three decades after the end of apartheid.
The police has arrested over 2,500 people suspected to be involved in inciting violence and that these cases are being prioritized, Ramaphosa said.
"It is our firm view that the deployment of our security forces, working together with communities and social partners across the country, will be able to restore order and prevent further violence," he said.
"We will extinguish the fires that are raging, and stamp out every last ember."
The president said using the pretext of a political grievance, those behind these acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrection.
"They have sought to exploit the social and economic conditions under which many South Africans live," he said.
The long-term social and economic cost of the unrest was also becoming clearer, with calls for the government to address underlying problems to head off more violence and despair.
Sone economists say the unrest would force South Africa's economy to contract by 3% in the third quarter and drag down full-year growth.
The head of the armed forces, Lieutenant General Rudzani Maphwanya, addressing soldiers in Alexandra, Johannesburg, said: "It is no longer just thuggery, this is economic sabotage...It is a threat to our people so you have to restore that freedom."
The Nelson Mandela Foundation - a legacy of the late leader of the anti-apartheid struggle and South Africa's first Black president - said violence had been growing at "disturbing levels" in the last two decades.
"There are too many people feeling discarded and in despair, too many people with nothing to lose, too many people who have seen political and other elites at all levels play fast and loose with the law, with impunity," the foundation said.
The head of Statistics South Africa, Risenga Maluleke, said it could take years to rebuild damaged infrastructure, and small businesses "will find it difficult to rise from the ashes".
This would lead to even more unemployment, he said. Most of the people in the streets were youths with few job prospects and limited education opportunities.
Half of South Africans live below the official poverty line and unemployment stood at a record 32% in the first three months of 2021, due partly to the impact of COVID-19.