South Africa deploying thousands of soldiers to quell looting, arson

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Wednesday that his office was looking to expand the deployment of its military in response to ongoing unrest following the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma. 

Ramaphosa made the announcement in a statement from his office, according to Reuters, and local news channel eNCA reported that South Africa’s Defense and Military Veterans’ Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told a parliamentary committee that the government plans to deploy up to 25,000 soldiers. 

“We have now submitted a request for deployment of (about) 25,000 members,” the minister said in a video aired by eNCA, according to Reuters

The move comes as at least 72 people have been killed and more than 1,200 arrested amid ongoing clashes between protesters and police, with officials saying that demonstrators have engaged in looting and violence. 

The protests first grew out of Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, but have since spread throughout the country, with police using rubber bullets and tear gas against some demonstrators, CBS News reported. 

KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala said that at least 26 people died in that province alone, noting that many had been killed after being trampled while demonstrators were looting. 

Late last month, Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison after South Africa’s Constitutional Court said he was guilty of missing a court date in February.

Zuma faces multiple corruption allegations from his time as president between 2009 and 2018, including that he and members of his administration had illegal contacts with three wealthy businessmen. 

Zuma, as well as the businessmen, have denied all the allegations levied against him. 

Days later, the 79-year-old turned himself in to authorities to begin his sentence, and a court that same week rejected his request to delay his prison time. 

Zuma had argued in his challenge to the sentence that the punishment was excessive and that his old age puts him at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 should he become infected with the virus while in prison.

Tags anti-government protests CBS News looting Reuters rioting South Africa

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