South Africa Violence Spreads amid Fears of Food and Fuel Shortages
For the sixth day in a row, violence in South Africa has escalated amid fears of food and fuel shortages.
Violence and looting in parts of South Africa are spreading, for the sixth consecutive day, which reflects deeper issues in the continent's economy, where a third pandemic lockdown is exacerbating economic pain and joblessness that has disproportionately impacted the poor.
Scenes broadcasted by local channels showed the ransacking of a shopping center in Johannesburg, in Gauteng province, as well as a corpse lying at one site, while hundreds of residents were rushing to collect remaining goods, according to AFP.
After looters ransacked warehouses and supermarkets in the South African port city of Durban on Tuesday, consumers stood in queues at a few supermarkets that remained open to buy basics.
For 'compelling reasons', the country's largest refinery announced the shutdown of its plant near Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, which supplies nearly a third of the country's fuel. In the same context, the Motorists' Association also stated that fuel scarcity is expected "in the next days or weeks."
Disruption to Supply Food Chains
Days of riots and looting have also impacted South African farmers, with trucks unable to deliver goods to markets, thus jeopardizing food supply, according to industry officials.
"Farmers have already endured major losses as they fail to get their products to local markets and shops," said Christo van der Rheede, Executive Director at Agri SA., the country’s main agricultural body.
Agri SA also warned that disruption to supply chains could lead to food and medicine shortages in the coming weeks.
In a country ailing from an economy devastated by a record unemployment rate (32.6 percent) and a third pandemic wave, the province of KwaZulu-Natal and the economic metropolis of Johannesburg are witnessing violence.
Moreover, police have confirmed that the violent civil unrest has also spread to Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. As the death toll from violent riots climbs past 70, with more than 1,200 arrests made, 2,500 soldiers have been deployed to assist the police in these areas.
On Tuesday, the African Union Commission condemned the deadly violence in South Africa, following the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma.
"The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, denounced in the strongest terms the surge of violence that has resulted in the deaths of civilians and appalling scenes of the looting of public and private property and the destruction of infrastructure, including the suspension of essential services in Kwazulu-Natal, Gauteng and other parts of South Africa," the Commission said in a statement.
On his part, Bunang Mohali, an economics professor, said that the robbery acts "significantly impact food and oil security," noting that "logistic disruptions are affecting the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines."
According to AFP, residents in some neighborhoods joined forces to protect shops, creating human chains. Meanwhile, about 50 residents south of Johannesburg carried sticks and rackets to confront the looters.
It's worth noting that the authorities forewarned against backsliding and urged "groups not to take matters into their own hands." On social media, aid groups were formed, with some providing help to clean up the damage caused by the looting, while others offered leftover food.
Violent riots have erupted in South Africa following the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.
The former President was sentenced to prison for refusing to appear before an investigation into charges of corruption during his presidency that lasted for 9 years.