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In South Africa, rioting and looting rocked parts of the country again overnight. The trouble began last week after the country’s former leader Jacob Zuma was jailed, and police say more than 70 people have been killed and 1,200 arrested. Nick Schifrin reports.
In South Africa, rioting and looting rocked parts of the country again overnight. Police say more than 70 people have been killed and 1, 200 arrested since last week.
Nick Schifrin reports.
It started as political protests and devolved into chaos across two of South Africa's largest cities, of looting, ransacked shelves, and malls turned into smoldering buildings. Some looters admitted they stole, but said their crimes were born from poverty.
Sello Marakai (through translator):
I guess the real reason is because we have nothing. And when you see other people stealing, at some point, you realize that shops will close and you will be left with nothing.
In response, police and soldiers fired into crowds, and tried to restore order. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa accuses looters of taking advantage of civil unrest.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa:
What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality.
The short-term spark was the imprisonment of former South African President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court. He's accused of fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.
But the long-term embers are entrenched poverty and unemployment, nearly 30 years after the end of apartheid.
Dr. Ralph Mathekga:
It is the dehumanizing effect of the — of inequality, and also the reality that South Africa just cannot continue the way in which we have been continuing.
Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and fellow at the University of Johannesburg. He says the African National Congress party has failed to deliver the dignity it promised to South Africans, and is roiled by infighting.
And Zuma himself became synonymous with corruption. The pandemic led to severe lockdowns that further increased unemployment. This is the worst violence since apartheid, . And analysts warn, if the unrest leads to Zuma's freedom, that could challenge the country's rule of law.
If the court releases him, it will have meant that, if you orchestrate chaos, you are going to be able to evade accountability.
Today, parts of South Africa are still on fire, and there's no sign anyone can douse the flames.
For the "PBS NewsHour, " I'm Nick Schifrin.
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Nick Schifrin is the foreign affairs and defense correspondent for PBS NewsHour, based in Washington, D.C. He leads NewsHour's foreign reporting and has created week-long, in-depth series for NewsHour from China, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, and the Baltics. The PBS NewsHour series "Inside Putin's Russia" won a 2018 Peabody Award and the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence. In November 2020, Schifrin received the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Arthur Ross Media Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs.
Ali Rogin is a correspondent for PBS News Weekend and a foreign affairs producer at the PBS NewsHour.
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