Updated Jul 13, 2021 - World

Death toll in South Africa riots rises to 72

A suspected looter pleads with a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldier.

A suspected looter pleads with a South African National Defence Force soldier who is detaining suspected looters in Soweto on July 13, 2021. Photo: EMMANUEL CROSET/AFP via Getty Images

The death toll from rioting in South Africa rose to 72 on Tuesday, amid unrest over the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma, AP reports.

Driving the news: Many of the deaths in the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal occurred from stampedes as people stole food, electric appliances, liquor and clothing from stores, officials told AP. Police are also investigating deaths caused by shootings and explosions from attempts to break into ATM machines.

  • More than 1,200 people have been arrested in Gauteng, per AP.
  • The South African National Defense Force was deployed Monday to help quell the civil unrest.

The big picture: Pockets of violence broke out after Zuma began serving a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court on Thursday.

  • Zuma's presidential term from 2009 to 2018 was tainted by financial scandals, corruption and mismanagement. He refused to testify in a corruption investigation, leading to his imprisonment.
  • Zuma's arrest comes as his successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has made rooting out government corruption central to his tenure.

What to watch: South Africa's highest court heard Zuma's application to have his prison sentence rescinded on Monday. After hours of testimony, the judges said they would announce their decision at a later date, per AP.

Of note: The unrest has disrupted the country's COVID-19 vaccination program, as inoculations have stopped in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, Bloomberg reports.

This story has been updated with the latest death toll and impact on the country's vaccine campaign.

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