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Death Toll Rises to 72 As Violent Protests Continue over Zuma’s Imprisonment

About 72 people have now been killed in the violence that erupted in South Africa, following the imprisonment of ex-President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court, following his refusal to appear before a graft panel.

The 79-year-old was convicted of defying a court order to testify before an inquiry probing allegations of corruption against him during his term as president.

The violent demonstrations, which started in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s province, spread to Gauteng province on Sunday with many shops looted and several injured.

Shops and businesses have been looted and vandalised, while vehicles and debris were left burning on roads.

According to the South African Police Service, many of the deaths recorded in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces occurred “in chaotic stampedes as thousands of people stole food, electric appliances, alcohol and clothing from shops”.

“The total number of people who have lost their lives since the beginning of these protests has risen to 72,” the police said in a statement.

The police added that 1,234 people have been arrested in connection with the violent riots.

Ten people were also said to have been killed in a stampede during mass looting at a shopping centre in Gauteng province on Monday.

Despite the deployment of soldiers to quell the riots, the protests and looting have continued.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had, on Monday, warned of “life-threatening consequences” as the unrest has disrupted supply chains, putting South Africa at risk of food and medicine shortages.

Condemning the looting, David Makhura, Gauteng province premier, said criminals have hijacked the protest.

“It is extremely sad. Looting is not a solution. We are losing lives. We cannot afford this. We are calling for calm; we are calling for peace,” Makhura said.

“This is destroying everything we had been building. The progress we had made in the township economy is being reversed by this looting, destruction and shutting down. The looting has to stop.

“It is already hampering the mobility of ambulance services, the delivery of oxygen and the administering of vaccines. This has all been affected by the blocking of roads.

“We are losing lives now; businesses are shutting down. All leaders in communities, political parties, religious leaders and civil society, we must all come together and say the looting and the violence cannot take place in our communities.

“We understand the unemployment situation, but the looting must stop, this is undermining the economy.”

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