Jul 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

South Africa deploys 25,000 troops to curb civil unrest

Armed soldiers from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) patrol at the gates of Maponya Mall following rioting in the Soweto district of Johannesburg, South Africa.
Armed soldiers from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) patrol at the gates of Maponya Mall following rioting in the Soweto district of Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The South African government started deploying 25,000 troops on Thursday to assist local police in curbing the widespread looting and violence that erupted after the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma, AP reports.

Why it matters: The deployment marks one of the country's largest since 1994, when white-minority rule ended. The government said at least 10,000 soldiers had taken to the streets as of Thursday morning.

  • Authorities say at least 117 people have been killed in the ongoing violence in the area, per AP.
  • Over 2,200 people have been arrested for theft and vandalism, according to Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, the acting minister in the presidency.

The big picture: Riots broke out after the former president began his 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court last week.

  • Zuma had refused a court order to share evidence in an inquiry into corruption allegations during his presidential term, which lasted from 2009 to 2018.

What to watch: South Africa's highest court agreed to hear Zuma's application to have his prison sentence rescinded. The judges have yet to announce their decision.

What they're saying: “Lives have been lost," the Minister of Police Bheki Cele said during a news conference Thursday, per AP. "The communities have a stand-off and are in a bad way because it is the Indian community and the neighboring communities, who are African."

Go deeper: Death toll in South Africa riots rises to 72

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