The police arrested 28 people on charges including public violence, theft and violation of COVID-19 restrictions.
South African police arrested 28 people, and one of the country’s largest highways was closed due to a violent protest against the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.
Protests broke out in parts of Zuma’s hometown of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) this week after Zuma surrendered to the police for contempt of court and served 15 months in prison.
On Friday, the High Court rejected Zuma’s application for overturning his arrest. The case was seen as a test of the rule of law in the country after apartheid.
Zuma’s imprisonment exposed the deep divisions within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), as the party remains loyal to the former president and has been a powerful source of opposition to his successor Cyril Ramaphosa.
KZN police spokesman Jay Naicker said that since Friday, 28 people have been arrested on charges including public violence, burglary, malicious destruction of property and violation of COVID-19 lockdown regulations.
He said the protesters set fire to some trucks near Mooi River, a small town on the N3 highway from Durban to Johannesburg, and shops in Mooi River and eThekwini (municipalities including Durban) were looted.
He added that law enforcement officers have been deployed to all areas of the province, but so far there have been no casualties. Early on Saturday afternoon, N3 was closed at the Mooi River.
Ramaphosa’s allies planned Zuma’s ouster in 2018, and he stated in a statement that “criminals must be dealt with with all the strength of the law.”
When asked about the public broadcaster SABC’s protests, a spokesperson for the Zuma Charitable Foundation said: “The people’s righteous anger is because they saw President Zuma being treated unfairly.”
Zuma was sentenced to jail for ignoring a Constitutional Court order that provided evidence during an investigation into high-level corruption during his nine years in power.
He denied that there was widespread corruption under his leadership, but refused to cooperate with the investigations he conducted in the final weeks of his term.
Zuma challenged his decision in the Constitutional Court, partly because of his alleged frailty and the risk of contracting COVID-19. This challenge will be heard on Monday.
KZN Governor Sihle Zikalala said in a video message that the provincial government understood the “extreme anger” of the protesters.
“We found ourselves in a… unique situation, and we are dealing with the arrest of the former president,” he said. “Unfortunately, violence and destruction often attack and affect people who are not even involved.”