Pockets of unrest remained, especially in the port city of Durban, where looters looted shops and racial tensions erupted.
But in the main commercial city of Johannesburg, traders and other residents sifted through debris, cleaned up trash and assessed what was left of their crumbling businesses.
Riots broke out in response to ex-President Jacob Zuma’s jail last week for his failure to appear in a corruption probe.
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It quickly degenerated into looting and destruction, prompted by widespread anger at the difficulties and inequalities that nearly three decades of democracy since the end of apartheid have failed to address.
The army called on all its reservists to bolster the army and police who have struggled to contain the unrest.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s acting cabinet minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said the number of troops had doubled since Wednesday to 10,000. This is even less than the 25,000 Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said. declared Wednesday to have been requested.
Ntshavheni also said the death toll rose to 91 in KwaZulu-Natal, the home province of Zuma where his support is greatest, and stood at 26 in Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg, making a total of 117 killed to date. A total of 2,203 arrests were made.
“We should be concerned about the nature of the violence that we have seen, the nature of the crime,” Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in an audio clip shared by her ministry.
“The South African economy was just starting to recover from the worst effects of the pandemic, this will further reverse our economic growth. “
Racial tensions stoked
In some neighborhoods, vigilante groups have sprung up to protect their property. But there was also evidence that the latest chaos could exacerbate the racial tensions that are a legacy of the apartheid system.
In the Phoenix neighborhood of Durban, where many South Africans of Indian descent live, authorities have reported a conflict between them and black citizens.
“There are ugly scenes taking place in the streets of Phoenix, the racial direction this unrest is taking must be stopped quickly,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said.
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Twenty people have been killed in Phoenix since the violence began last week, he later said on television.
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An informal slum housing poor blacks has been burned down in the town of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, the mayor of the municipality said, who understands it.
The rampaging of stores left food and other essentials in short supply, and the closure of many gas stations also affected transport supply lines.
At Diepkloof Shopping Center in Soweto, South Africa’s largest township, around 50 people swept up broken glass and packed empty shoe boxes into plastic trash bags, a Reuters reporter said.
Clothing stores were empty and looted cash machines littered the floor.
“It’s heartbreaking… It’s all gone. It will take months to get back on track, ”said Ricardo Desousa, manager of a butcher’s shop ransacked in the Bara shopping center in Soweto.
His staff were helping to clean up the mess. “They will not be paid,” he said. ” There is no money. “
The destruction of businesses risks exacerbating the poverty and desperation that partly fueled the riots.
Half of South Africans are below the official poverty line and unemployment has reached a record high of 32.6% in the first three months of 2021, in part due to the impact of COVID-19.
Looting continued in Durban on Thursday, where a Reuters reporter saw crowds in the Mobeni neighborhood rolling carts loaded with corn flour and other basic items.
Zuma, 79, was convicted last month for defying a testimonial order in a judicial inquiry into high-level corruption during his tenure from 2009 to 2018.
He has pleaded not guilty in a separate case on bribery, fraud, racketeering and money laundering charges, claiming he was the victim of a political witch hunt.
But his fall opened a power struggle within the African National Congress (ANC), in power since the end of apartheid in 1994. Zuma’s followers are the strongest faction opposed to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Dozens dead as riots break out in South Africa after former president jail
William Gumede, professor of governance at the University of the Witwatersrand, said the chaos was likely to cost the ANC lost votes. Municipal elections are scheduled for October.
“Blacks lost the most… businesses were hit, with mostly black employees out of work,” he said. “So you can imagine the anger towards the ANC among many former supporters. “
The unrest has also disrupted hospitals struggling to cope with a third wave of COVID-19. They lack oxygen and medicine, most of which are imported via Durban. Some vaccination centers have been forced to close.
– Additional reporting by Siyabonga Sishi in Durban, Wendell Roelf in Cape Town and Shafiek Tassiem, Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Siphiwe Sibeko and Tim Cocks in Johannesburg; Written by Tim Cocks