91 dead as KwaZulu-Natal remains volatile

Police have arrested one of the 12 individuals believed to be the key instigators of the wave of looting and destruction of property in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday that the police tracking unit had “increased surveillance” on the remaining 11 suspects. 

Ntshavheni however refused to be drawn into commenting about former spy boss Thulani Dhlomo, a key ally of Jacob Zuma alleged to be one of the masterminds behind the attacks, which the government is now viewing as an attempt at insurrection by the former president’s allies.

She said thus far, 10 000 of the 25 000 troops being deployed in response to the week of violence and economic sabotage were already on the ground in the two provinces.

The death toll from the violence in KwaZulu-Natal stood at 91, with 39 incidents reported overnight in the province, Ntshavheni said. A total of 1 478 people had been arrested for looting and associated crimes.

In Gauteng, only six new incidents were reported overnight, and indications were that the province was calm. A total of 725 people had been arrested, while 26 were known to have died during the looting.

Ntshavheni said progress was being made in securing the N3 and N2 routes to Durban and Richards Bay, and in getting the ports operational again.

She called on community members to restrict themselves to defending their homes and their lives and not to launch attacks on those they knew to be involved in looting. This, she said, had led to the increase of racial tensions in Phoenix, where troops had now been deployed to secure the community and prevent further attacks.

“We do not want members of the public to be at loggerheads with the law after attempts to protect their communities, properties and lives. Do not interfere with the rights of others and do not take the law into your own hands,” Ntshavheni said.

The South African National Defence Force would continue to focus on protecting key points and providing support for the police, who would also be providing escorts for convoys transporting key supplies including oxygen and medicines, she added.

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