72 lives now lost in deadliest violence since dawn of democracy

For six days now, mobs have attacked malls, shops, small businesses, depots, roadside stalls and trucks - stealing whatever they can get their hands on with impunity.

SANDF and SAPS members interrogate a suspected looter in Alexandra on 13 July 2021. This follows large-scale incidents of rioting and looting across the township and the province. Picture: Boikhutso Ntsoko/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - With the number of people who've passed away in ongoing violence and looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal climbing to 72 overnight, the latest wave of violence has become the deadliest since the dawn of democracy.

For six days now, mobs have attacked malls, shops, small businesses, depots, roadside stalls and trucks - stealing whatever they can get their hands on with impunity.

The number of arrests has risen to 1,234: "Since an instruction was issued by the NatJOINTS to other provinces that have not been affected, to operationalise their prevention operational plans, there has been a report from Mpumalanga of an incident of looting and destruction of property in the Matsulu policing precinct with one person in custody. There has also been a report of two incidents in the Northern Cape, Galeshewe where one person has been arrested," police said in a statement.

The Police's Brenda Muridili said many of the dead perished in stampedes as looters surged forward crushing them.

“In KZN, there are 27 cases being investigated by the police (murder 14, inquest 13) while the number in GP is 45 (murder 19, inquest 26). A greater part of the inquest dockets related to the stampedes that occurred during incidents of looting of shops and malls, while other deaths and injuries were related to ATM explosions and shooting.”

A law enforcement office is now among those reported dead.

"The SAPS, Defence and SSA as co-chairpersons of the NatJOINTS have condemned the attacks on law enforcement officers which have now resulted in the death of an officer from Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department, while seven SAPS members are recovering from injuries sustained while responding to violent protests (KZN 3, GP 4)," the statement added.

As of 14 July 2021, violence in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape has seen 72 killed. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

Even the presence of the SANDF in some areas of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal has not been enough to quell the crime wave.

This is beginning to have very real effects on communities in KZN with shortages of basic supplies like fuel and bread already coming to the fore.

There are growing calls for the government to do more and impose a state of emergency in order to bring looters under control.

First vice president of the Durban Chamber of Commerce Mpume Langa said KZN was in a desperate situation.

"Currently, because of the roads being closed, having access to food, medical care and to financial services is being disrupted. The municipality has confirmed that they might be disrupting water and power. In some areas, our cell phone towers are also being threatened. So currently, if things don't change in KZN, I don't see how we’ll pull through this,” Langa said.

Langa said the deployment of the SANDF had barely touched sides and business had been told the army would be focused on protecting government infrastructure.

And as day six of the violence dawned on Wednesday, there were increasing questions around how the situation got out of control so quickly.

Police have promised to track down and deal with the instigators of localised looting rather than just targeting opportunists.

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