South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday the mob violence that has shut down major highways, destroyed businesses and left at least 117 people dead were deliberate acts.
Secured by three army tanks, Ramaphosa arrived at a shopping centre in the hard-hit port city of Durban and condemned the violence as an attack on democracy.
“It’s quite clear that all these incidences of unrest and looting were instigated; there were people who planned it, who coordinated it,” he said.
Ramaphosa added that some people had been identified and were being sought. “We will not allow anarchy and mayhem to just unfold in our country. Yes, we could have done better, but we were overwhelmed by a situation,” he said, apparently referring to the police response.
According to him, 95 people died in the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natalm, where Durban is located, alone.
Meanwhile, there were growing concerns of supply shortages in South Africa.
One of the main reasons for the supply bottlenecks was caused by the closure of several main roads in the country, hindering food and fuel deliveries.
Bakeries reportedly having trouble obtaining flour. Refinery closures in Durban have led to long queues in front of the few open petrol stations in the city. The government warned against panic-buying and hoarding, and temporarily issued a ban on buying gasoline in jerry cans.
A shortage of medicines in the hard-hit province of KwaZulu-Natal, which includes the coastal city of Durban, was also worrying residents, after numerous drugstores and medical clinics were looted and vandalized.
Chaos erupted across swathes of the country following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma a week ago. The protests devolved into unchecked looting, arson and violence.
The impacts of the unrest were continuing to be revealed.
According to local media, when a pesticide production facility in KwaZulu-Natal was burned down, toxins entered a neighbouring river and caused mass deaths of fish and shrimp. Authorities confirmed fish had died, but said they were still investigating the exact cause.
Farmers are frequently having to destroy their milk, as there is often no reliable way to transport it to market from the production site in a timely manner, the South African Milk Processors’ Organisation said.
There have also been unconfirmed reports of farms being looted.
South Africa’s government has mobilized a total of 30,000 troops to aid local law enforcement in combating the ongoing violent protests, marking one of the largest deployments in 27 years of South African democracy.