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South Africa deploys army to quell violence as 6 people killed in unrest

People flee from police as they carry goods while looting and vandalizing the Lotsoho Mall in Katlehong township, East of Johannesburg, South Africa, on July 12, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

South African military says it has deployed soldiers to two provinces of the country to help police quell the ongoing violence ignited by last week’s jailing of former President Jacob Zuma.

In a statement on Monday, the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) said army soldiers have been deployed to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces to assist members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), as they continue to try and control violent protests and riots in those areas.

"The duration (of the deployment) and number of deploying soldiers will be determined based on the assessment of the situation on the ground," the military said.

Soldiers will also be deployed to Johannesburg, the commercial hub of South Africa which is witnessing widespread unrest as well.

The military went on to say that the soldiers will be providing safety and safe environment for members of the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies whilst they carry out their constitutionally mandated law and order duties.

The latest development comes as dozens have been arrested in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the home province of Zuma, as well as Johannesburg over the past two days following reports of looting and blocking of the roads.

The unrest had mainly been concentrated in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), where Zuma was sent to jail for contempt of court.

Police said criminals were taking advantage of the anger to steal and cause damage.

Several hundred people looted and burned stores in different neighborhoods of Johannesburg, according to police.

National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure said at least 219 people have been arrested.

So far, six people have reportedly died amid the violent demonstrations and the unrest that has gripped the provinces.

African national intelligence body NatJOINTS said in a statement the bodies of four people had been found - at least two of them with gunshot wounds - in Gauteng. Two deaths had occurred in KZN, and all six were being investigated.

Also on Monday, video footage shot by local TV channels showed a mall in Pietermaritzburg in KZN on fire, with a nearby highway closed to prevent further violence.

Another mall in Vosloorus, Gauteng, was set alight amid vandalism and rioting, according to the TimesLIVE website.

The recent protests seem to be tied in with a sense of economic desperation as the country faces tightened restrictions under a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the sporadic violence, Zuma is going to ask the nation's top court to rescind his 15-month sentence and let him out of jail.

Zuma, 79, was slapped with the prison stretch on June 29 for refusing to appear before an anti-graft hearing.

He is seeking to have that ruling set aside on the grounds of his alleged frail health and the risk of catching COVID-19.

Legal experts say Zuma's chances of success are slim.

The corruption inquiry, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has been investigating charges of graft against Zuma in his time in power from 2009 to 2018. The former South African president has denied wrongdoing, and claims that Zondo has personal motives.

Zuma also faces a corruption case relating to a $2 billion arms deal in 1999 when he was deputy president. He denies the charges in that case.

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