Clean-up continues in South Africa after violent unrest was stemmed by military intervention, with major roads reopening in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.
At least 212 people have died in a week of chaos, hundreds of shops have been looted and key infrastructure damaged or destroyed, potentially slowing South Africa’s recovery after the 2020 downturn.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorized the deployment of 25,000 troops to restore calm. The month-long operation is expected to cost 615.7 million rand ($ 42.7 million).
The protests followed the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court, and widened as poor communities took to the streets to express their anger at substandard living conditions.
The actions coincided with various measures taken to control a third wave of coronavirus infections that have pushed hospitals to capacity. South Africa is on virus alert level 4, its second highest level since the end of June, as public gatherings are theoretically prohibited. Riots interrupted COVID-19 vaccinations in two key provinces.
“Calm has returned and is returning in most of these areas,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address Friday, his third since the unrest began. “We will put out the fires that are still raging and we will eradicate until the last embers. “
Ramaphosa said “a good number” of the alleged instigators have been identified. He said the unrest, far from being spontaneous, had been “planned and coordinated”.
South Africa faces a long way to restore the confidence of battered investors. While the rand gained 1.1% against the dollar on Friday as calm returned, it still fell 1.5% on the week. The FTSE / JSE Africa Top40 index fell 1.6% on Friday.
Government officials met with CEOs of 34 of the country’s largest companies on Thursday to discuss the situation, acting presidential minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told reporters.
Gross domestic product is likely to decline in the third quarter, as delays in the vaccination program could lead to new infections, said Annabel Bishop, chief economist at Investec Bank Ltd. in a note sent by email. Business and consumer confidence has been “decimated,” she wrote.
Deutsche Bank AG sees unrest slash South Africa’s economic growth rate by 0.8 percentage points this year. In June, the World Bank forecast South Africa’s GDP to grow 3.5% in 2021 after falling 7% in 2020, the highest in a century.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, president of the Southern African Development Community, on Friday warned of a wider regional economic impact if unrest resumes.
Food, medicine and fuel remain insufficient in several towns in KwaZulu-Natal following the closure of hundreds of retail outlets and traffic disruption on major transport routes.
The government has received reports of extensive damage to 161 shopping centers, 11 warehouses, eight factories and 161 alcohol outlets and distributors.
The South African Council of Churches on Friday urged the government to initiate a limited amnesty during which people could return looted property to police without being charged.
In Port Shepstone, south of Durban, long lines of people were waiting outside malls to buy food on Friday. Government buildings and almost all stores other than grocery stores remained closed. There was a heavy presence of soldiers on the city streets, and Metropolitan Police officers and civilians manned roadblocks at key access points.
Ramaphosa described the violence as a deliberate and orchestrated attack on South African democracy.
“Through social media, fake news and disinformation, they have sought to stir up racial tensions and violence,” he said. “This attempted insurgency has failed to gain the popular support of our people. It failed because of the efforts of our security forces and because the South Africans rejected it.
More than 2,550 people have been arrested and the police are investigating 131 murder cases.
Ramaphosa said it was imperative to provide support to households and businesses to enable them to rebuild and restock. The Presidency and Treasury were working on a full package that will be presented to Cabinet for consideration, with details to be announced shortly, he said.
© 2021 Bloomberg LP Tour bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Copyright 2021 Tribune Content Agency.