Clean-up operations continue in Vosloorus, east of Johannesburg, after looting and rioting in the area. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSEL/SUNDAY TIMES
Clean-up operations continue in Vosloorus, east of Johannesburg, after looting and rioting in the area. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSEL/SUNDAY TIMES

Cleanup operations continue in SA after violent unrest was stemmed by military intervention, with major roads reopened across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.

At least 212 people died during a week of mayhem, hundreds of shops were looted, and key infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, potentially slowing SA’s recovery from 2020’s downturn.

President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the deployment of 25,000 soldiers to restore calm. The month-long operation is expected to cost R615.7m.

The protests followed former president Jacob Zuma’s incarceration on contempt-of-court charges, and broadened as poor communities took to the streets to vent their anger over substandard living conditions.

The actions coincided with various measures taken to control a third wave of coronavirus infections that have pushed hospitals to capacity. SA has been on virus alert level 4, its second highest, since late June.

“Calm has returned and is returning to most of these areas,” Ramaphosa said Friday in a televised address, his third since the unrest began. “We will extinguish the fires that are still raging and we will stamp out every last ember.”

Ramaphosa said “a good number” of the alleged instigators had been identified. He said the unrest, far from being spontaneous, had been “planned and co-ordinated.”

SA faces a long haul to restore battered investor confidence. The rand gained 1.1% against the dollar on Friday as calm was restored, but was 1.5% weaker than the previous week.

GDP will likely shrink in the third quarter, while delays in the vaccination program could result in new infections, Annabel Bishop, chief economist at Investec Bank Ltd. said in an e-mailed note. Business and consumer confidence has been “decimated,” she wrote.

Deutsche Bank AG sees the unrest shaving 0.8 of a percentage point off SA’s economic growth rate this year. In June, the World Bank forecast South African GDP to grow 3.5% in 2021 after tumbling 7% in 2020, the most in a century.

Food, medicines and fuel remain in short supply in several towns in KwaZulu-Natal after the shuttering of hundreds of retail outlets and disruption of traffic on key transport routes.

The government has received reports of extensive damage being done to 161 malls, 11 warehouses, eight factories and 161 liquor outlets and distributors.

The South African Council of Churches on Friday urged the government to initiate a limited amnesty during which people could return looted property to police without facing charges.

Ramaphosa described the violence as a deliberate and orchestrated assault on SA’s democracy.

“Through social media, fake news and misinformation they have sought to inflame racial tensions and violence,” he said. “This attempted insurrection has failed to gain popular support among our people. It has failed because of the efforts of our security forces and because South Africans have rejected it.”

More than 2,550 people have been arrested and the police are investigating 131 cases of murder.

Ramaphosa said it was imperative to provide support to households and businesses to enable them to rebuild and restock. The presidency and Treasury were working on a comprehensive package that will be presented to the cabinet for consideration, with details to be announced soon.

Bloomberg. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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