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South Africa: Riot deaths and destruction fuelled by 'entrenched impunity'

More than 70 dead in riots following jailing of former President Jacob Zuma

Food supplies and Covid vaccines under threat as country hit by third wave

‘The Government’s inaction so far has resulted in unnecessary loss of life’ - Shenilla Mohamed

Deadly unrest currently tearing through parts of South Africa has been fuelled by criminal justice failures and years of impunity for violence, Amnesty International South Africa said as the death toll continues to rise.

Rioting, looting and the destruction of hundreds of properties in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng has left at least 70 people dead, with violent incidents also reported in two other provinces - Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. At least 1,200 people have been arrested.

Unrest began after former president Jacob Zuma handed himself in to the authorities in KwaZulu-Natal, on the evening of 8 July. This followed the Constitutional Court finding Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentencing him to 15 months in prison.

Riots have also disrupted South Africa’s healthcare system and Covid-19 vaccination distribution as the country battles a deadly third wave of the virus. Food security is also under threat, after targeted attacks on shopping malls, distribution warehouses and factories producing essential supplies.

In other parts of the country - including Northern Cape and Mpumalanga - communities have been forced to protect themselves and denounce attacks on shopping malls because of the state’s failure to proactively safeguard these areas. In some instances, police have watched while people looted shops.

Shenilla Mohamed, Amnesty International’s Executive Director of South Africa, said:

“The South African authorities cannot pretend to be surprised by the escalating violence. Entrenched impunity for past acts of violence has resulted in a vicious cycle of violence.

“It is the responsibility of the authorities to ensure that this unrest is brought under control.

“The Government’s inaction so far has resulted in unnecessary loss of life and the destruction of countless livelihoods.

“Unless human rights are fully and effectively respected, no one will be safe in South Africa.

“The authorities must immediately restore law and order before more lives are lost.”

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