Hundreds of people have taken to the streets of South Africa’s two most densely populated provinces to protest the jailing of the country’s former president Jacob Zuma.
The protests have turned violent in some locations, with looting and vandalism reported across multiple cities. Dozens of demonstrators have been arrested in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal on the eastern coast, and in the central province of Gauteng, which features two of South Africa’s largest cities, Johannesburg and Pretoria.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has deployed the military to police the protests while calling for calm in the country.
“The path of violence, of looting and anarchy, leads only to more violence and devastation,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address. “It leads to more poverty, more unemployment, and more loss of innocent life. This is not who we are as a people...It is therefore a matter of vital importance that we restore calm and stability to all parts of the country without delay. It is vital that we prevent any further loss of life or injury.
“It is vital that we protect property and safeguard social and economic infrastructure. We are therefore mobilising all available resources & capabilities to restore order. As the Commander-in-Chief of the South African Defence Force, I have today authorised the deployment of Defence Force personnel in support of the operations of the South African Police Service.”
Zuma was sentenced last month to 15 months in jail after South Africa’s Constitutional Court found him guilty of contempt of court for refusing to testify at a hearing that was established to investigate accusations of historic corruption during his presidency.
The former president, who governed his country for nine years, has denied corruption, while his supporters claim that his conviction is politically motivated. If his sentence is upheld on appeal by the Constitution Court, he will be the first president of post-apartheid South Africa to be jailed.
At least 10 people are reported to have died as a result of the ongoing protests and clashes with police. Authorities have accused criminal elements in the country of taking advantage of the unrest.