The South African Army has deployed 25,000 troops in a desperate attempt to quell the looting and destruction that has consumed the country in the past week. The deployment is the largest which has been seen in the country since 1994 and the government has called on all available reserve forces, as well as helicopters and armored personnel carriers. At least 100 people have already been killed in the rioting and nearly 2,000 have been arrested.
Looting and destruction in South Africa
Rioting broke out in South Africa last week after former President Jacob Zuma was jailed following an investigation into widespread allegation of corruption during his time in office.
Zuma, a close ally of former President Nelson Mandela, was the President of South Africa from 2009 to 2018. He is accused of taking high-level bribes from several powerful Indian businessmen.
Despite the serious corruption charges, Zuma continues to enjoy widespread support among his fellow Zulus, who have engaged in fierce rioting in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Police were often evidently unable or unwilling to intervene against rioters in many areas, leaving hundreds of shops and businesses in ruins as looters roamed freely.
One of the few bulwarks against the chaos thus far has been the emergence of loosely organized citizen militias and defense squads armed with rifles and shotguns.
The government hopes that the heavily armed soldiers being deployed to Johannesburg, Pretoria, and other cities will be able to do what the police could not reestablish some degree of order.
Citizen militias defend communities
The top priority for the South African Army is ensuring that vital infrastructure is not disrupted and that roads and harbors are able to continue to move food and fuel.
In many areas it appears locals may still be largely on their own. Fortunately, racial tensions and surging crime in the years following the end of apartheid have pushed many citizens to prepare for this sort of civil unrest.
The largely white or Indian militias are not waiting for intervention from the government, instead arming themselves and working together to keep rioters at bay.
Like nearby Zimbabwe, majority rule in South Africa has turned what was once an exceptionally prosperous nation into an increasingly violent, unstable, and poverty stricken nation.
Shockingly, it turns out that establishing equality and electing Nelson Mandela did not turn South Africa into a beautiful post-racial paradise.
Americans who are familiar with the events of 2020 will be aware that even with the troop deployments the government will be unlikely to end the rioting and destruction until it burns out on its own. For the beleaguered citizens of South Africa the ordeal is likely not over yet.