POLICE are caught looting goods as South Africa’s descent into lawlessness continues


Policemen in South Africa have been caught looting goods as the ransacking of stores and warehouses continued into a fifth day – amid fears of food and Covid medicines shortages caused by the rioting.

Footage showed people accosting a man wearing a police jacket beside a hatchback filled with household supplies, including bread, milk and cooking oil. The woman filming says: ‘This is a police officer, in uniform, looting … This is our SAPS (South African Police Service), guys.’

A second video from the same woman showed another purported officer in plain clothes trying to hide his face from the camera after he was hauled out of his car by locals. His vehicle was laden with allegedly looted products, including a flat-screen television.

‘He has looted, he has threatened our lives with firearms, and this is all coming out of his Polo,’ the woman says as she films objects on the ground beside the open car boot. 

The raging unrest first erupted last Friday after former president Jacob Zuma started serving a 15-month term for contempt, having snubbed a probe into the corruption that stained his nine years in power.  

But the wanton lawlessness has lost any political motivation, with gang shoot-outs in the streets, people queuing up in their cars to loot warehouses and malls, and white farmers forming militias to defend their properties.

Law-abiding citizens were pictured this morning lining up outside a supermarket in Hillcrest in KwaZulu-Natal, trying to stock up amid fears of food shortages caused by the pillaging.

The National Hospital Network, representing 241 public hospitals, has warned it is running out of oxygen and drugs – most of which are imported from Durban which has been besieged by rioting.    

The woman filming says: 'This is a police officer, in uniform, looting ... This is our SAPS (South African Police Service), guys.'

Footage showed people accosting a man wearing a police jacket beside a hatchback filled with household supplies, including bread, milk and cooking oil

The man's car is seen filled with household supplies including bottles of cooking oil

A pack of toilet paper in the man's car

The man’s car is seen filled with household supplies including bottles of cooking oil and packs of toilet paper 

A second video from the same woman showed another purported officer in plain clothes trying to hide his face from the camera after he was hauled out of his car by locals

His vehicle was laden with allegedly looted products, including a flat-screen television

A second video from the same woman showed another purported officer in plain clothes trying to hide his face from the camera after he was hauled out of his car by locals. His vehicle was laden with allegedly looted products, including a flat-screen television.

Residents queue at a supermarket amid fears of food shortages in Hillcrest, in KwaZulu-Natal province

Residents queue at a supermarket amid fears of food shortages in Hillcrest, in KwaZulu-Natal province 

Residents queue at a supermarket which has been closed after violence erupted in KwaZulu-Natal province

Residents queue at a supermarket which has been closed after violence erupted in KwaZulu-Natal province

People loot near a burning warehouse on Wednesday morning in the Hillcrest area of KwaZulu-Natal province

People loot near a burning warehouse on Wednesday morning in the Hillcrest area of KwaZulu-Natal province

Looters outside a torched warehouse in the Hillcrest area of Kwa-Zulu Natal province which has been badly hit by the riots

Looters are seen carrying goods outside a warehouse in HIllcrest

Looters outside a torched warehouse in the Hillcrest area of Kwa-Zulu Natal province which has been badly hit by the riots

Looters pull few items they took from what was left to grab in a vandalised mall in Vosloorus, on Wednesday

Looters pull few items they took from what was left to grab in a vandalised mall in Vosloorus, on Wednesday

President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed 2,500 soldiers to help overrun police forces in Johannesburg and southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. Rioting has also spread to Soweto, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape

How former president criminal Jacob Zuma’s jail sentence sparked chaos

The unrest started in Jacob Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday after the former president was jailed.

The ‘garden province’, whose largest city is Durban, still has strong support for Zuma who remains popular among many poor South Africans, especially grassroots members of the ANC, who see him as a defender of the disadvantaged.

The violence soon spread to Gauteng, the economic hub of South Africa that contains Johannesburg and the deprived township of Soweto, its name an abbreviation of South Western Townships.

The country is in a deep economic malaise, with cripplingly high levels of unemployment exacerbated by the pandemic.

Those hardest hit have been South Africa’s poor and black populations.

Soweto, where Nelson Mandela lived for 16 years, is made up of 99 per cent black people, whose most common first language is Zulu.

The township was originally created to house black Africans who worked in white factories and houses, and the few businesses allowed in the area were heavily controlled by the apartheid state.

Many in Soweto are still too poor to pay for electricity with more than half of people under 35 unemployed.

Similarly, KwaZulu-Natal is a predominantly black and Zulu population with an estimated 3.2million people living in poverty out of a population of 10.5million.

Nationally, the pandemic has worsened conditions with record levels of unemployment at 32.6 per cent, rising to 46.3 per cent among young people.

Zuma’s popularity among poor black Africans combined with their extreme poverty has proved a tinderbox for the country’s latest violence. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa last night deployed 2,500 soldiers to help overrun police forces in Johannesburg and Durban. Rioting has also spread to Soweto, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape.

But these numbers are dwarfed by the more than 70,000 troops deployed to enforce last year’s coronavirus lockdown, and only a handful of soldiers were seen at some shopping centres. 

One looter said she was doing it purely because of the economic impacts of the lockdown. Asked by a local TV reporter if she was stealing because of Zuma’s imprisonment, she said: ‘No, we’re looting because we have no food, we have no jobs because of the Covid lockdown.’ 

Last year, the country’s GDP slumped by 7 per cent – the largest decline in more than 40 years. The unemployment rate stands at 32.6 per cent, while youth unemployment has soared to a staggering 75 per cent. 

People living in neighbourhoods plagued by the rioting said they were terrified and couldn’t sleep at night because of the constant gunfire.

One woman, preparing to make a 20-minute drive across Durban to visit her family, told the BBC she was worried she might not be able to get there because of blockades which have popped up along the main highways.

‘I am so scared,’ the woman, who asked not to be named, told the broadcaster.

‘It literally feels like being in a war zone with gunshots, fires and smoke going up everywhere for the last two days.’ 

Another resident, who also refused to be named, told the BBC that they are having to just sit back and watch the looting, hoping that the perpetrators don’t turn on their homes.

‘We are on fire,’ the man said. ”We’ve gone to a place where we are going to watch them stealing, we are not interfering with them – don’t harm us.’ 

The British and Irish Lions rugby team, which is touring the country, has been assured of their safety amid the deteriorating security situation. 

The Lions are scheduled to play three matches in Cape Town, starting against South Africa A on Wednesday, before returning to Johannesburg for two Tests that will complete the tour.

Lions coach Warren Gatland told an online news conference last week that he believed the second and third Tests would be switched to Cape Town. 

Looting has hit supply chains and transport links in the Johannesburg region and the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, sending a shockwave to goods and services around the country. 

Video footage shared to Twitter on Monday showed people resorting to shooting at looters in a bid to protect their businesses as looting continues in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces

Video footage shared to Twitter on Monday showed people resorting to shooting at looters in a bid to protect their businesses as looting continues in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces 

In the clip, a line of shop and property owners fired on the rioters from afar before running closer and continuing to shoot, while the crowds protected themselves behind road signs and ran off the road amid the chaos

In the clip, a line of shop and property owners fired on the rioters from afar before running closer and continuing to shoot, while the crowds protected themselves behind road signs and ran off the road amid the chaos

A member of the South African Police Services (SAPS) fired rubber bullets at rioters looting the Jabulani Mall in Soweto on Monday

A member of the South African Police Services (SAPS) fired rubber bullets at rioters looting the Jabulani Mall in Soweto on Monday 

South African police force suspected looters to lie down after apprehending them in Soweto on Tuesday

South African police force suspected looters to lie down after apprehending them in Soweto on Tuesday

Suspected looters who surrendered to armed private security officers are marched outside in a flooded mall in Vosloorus on Tuesday

Suspected looters who surrendered to armed private security officers are marched outside in a flooded mall in Vosloorus on Tuesday

Afire engulfs Campsdrift Park, which houses Makro and China Mall in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday

Afire engulfs Campsdrift Park, which houses Makro and China Mall in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday

The deployment of 2,500 soldiers to support the South African police has so far failed to stop the rampant looting, although arrests were being made in some areas in Johannesburg, including Vosloorus in the eastern part of the city

The deployment of 2,500 soldiers to support the South African police has so far failed to stop the rampant looting, although arrests were being made in some areas in Johannesburg, including Vosloorus in the eastern part of the city

Shopkeepers have been firing at looters. Pictured: A self-armed local looks for looters inside a supermarket in Durban

Shopkeepers have been firing at looters. Pictured: A self-armed local looks for looters inside a supermarket in Durban

Rape charge, ‘Guptagate’ and an arms deal: The scandals that led to the downfall of Jacob Zuma 

Jacob Zuma has been a dominant force in South African politics for decades. 

A leader in the resistance to white minority rule, Zuma has been a key figure in the ruling ANC party since the end of apartheid.

The 79-year-old served as the country’s deputy president, before eventually becoming president in 2007.

He held the post for 10 years before his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa took over. 

His long political career has been beset by scandals, including a rape charge and multiple allegations of corruption, with his ability to weather political storms seeing him nicknamed the ‘Teflon president’.

In July 2021, he was jailed for failing to cooperate with a corruption probe in a move which prompted mass unrest sparked by his supporters.

The corruption investigation centres on Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas, three billionaire Indian-born businessmen – in a scandal that has been dubbed ‘Guptagate’.

Zuma is accused of allowing the brothers – Atul, Ajay and Rajesh – to plunder state resources and peddle influence over government policy during his time as president. 

On July 9, Zuma handed himself over to police to begin a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court after defying a court ruling to give evidence before the inquiry.

Zuma has decried the investigation as a ‘witch hunt’ led by Ramaphosa.

The former president is also facing a separate trial over a £3billion arms deal signed in 1999 when he was deputy president. 

Zuma allegedly accepted bribes from international arms manufacturers to influence the choice of weaponry. 

But these scandals are only the most recent in a long list.  

Prior to Guptagate, Zuma was engulfed in a furore over so-called security upgrades to his rural Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal province.

The tax-payer-funded work, cost $24million (£17.31million) and included a swimming pool – which was described as a fire-fighting facility – an amphitheatre and a visitors’ centre.

South Africa’s graft watchdog in 2014 found that Zuma ‘benefitted unduly’ from the work. 

In 2006, the year before he became president, Ramaphosa was put on trial for rape. 

He claimed he had had consensual sex with a 31-year-old family friend and was acquitted.

Beyond the alleged rape, South Africans were dismayed that Zuma, who headed the country’s National AIDS Council at the time, admitted to having unprotected sex with his accuser, who was HIV-positive.

He caused further anger by telling the court he had showered afterwards to avoid contracting HIV – This method does not prevent the spread of HIV and was a commonly repeated myth in South Africa at the time.

More than a decade later, he is still mocked in newspaper cartoons, often being depicted with a shower nozzle sprouting from his head. 

Despite the slew of scandals, Zuma continues to enjoy support both among poor South Africans and the ANC .  

In the port city of Durban, people started queueing outside food stores and at fuel stations as early as 4am – when the Covid night curfew ends.

The night before, the country’s largest refinery, Sapref, declared ‘force majeure’ – an emergency beyond its control – and shuttered its plant in Durban, shutting down a third of South Africa’s fuel supply.

The firm said the refinery was ‘temporarily shut down… due to the civil unrest and disruption of supply routes in and out of KwaZulu-Natal.’

Some fuel retailers have begun rationing while others are starting to run dry.

‘It’s inevitable that we will have fuel shortages in the next couple of days or weeks,’ Layton Beard, spokesman for South Africa’s Automobile Association, said.

Outside a branch of a popular supermarket in northern Durban’s Eastman region, around 400 people started lining up to buy food, hours before the shop was due to open.

‘With these lootings, it’s an inflection point… this has now seriously compromised our energy security and food security,’ warned Bonang Mohale, chancellor of the University of the Free State and a professor of business and economics studies.

‘It has created disruption to the coronavirus vaccine rollout and deliveries to hospitals,’ he added.

Christo van der Rheede, executive director of the largest farmers’ organisation, AgriSA, said producers were struggling to get their crops to market because the logistical network was in a ‘shambles’.

‘We need the restoration of law and order as soon as possible, because we are going to have a massive humanitarian crisis,’ van der Rheede said. 

The police last night confirmed that the number of people who have lost their lives in the looting so far has risen to 72. 

Most of the deaths ‘relate to stampedes that occurred during incidents of looting of shops’, the police statement said. 

Others were linked to shootings and explosions of bank ATMs.

The number of arrests has risen to 1,234, although many thousands have been involved in the ransacking sprees. 

Earlier TV footage showed dozens of women, some wearing their dressing gowns, men and even children strolling into a butcher in Soweto, coming out balancing heavy boxes of frozen meat on their heads or shoulders. 

Police showed up three hours later and fired rubber bullets. Soldiers eventually followed.

In Alexandra township north of Johannesburg, hundreds of people streamed in and out of a shopping mall, freely grabbing groceries.

Looters who spoke to AFP said they had got caught up in the rush, or saw the chance to ease a life blighted by poverty.

‘I’m really not concerned about Zuma. He is a corrupt old man that deserves to be in jail,’ said a 30-year-old man who works at a car wash.

He admitted to ‘taking things from the shop for my mum’ – stainless-steel pots, meat and groceries.

In Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal’s capital, people hauled boxed refrigerators through bushes to a long line of cars that were parked along a highway.

In Durban, aerial footage showed hundreds of people looting a large shopping centre and carting off huge boxes of goods.

A woman was seen throwing her baby from the first floor of a building to save her from fire after shops below her apartment were set on fire. The child safely landed with a group of people on the street. 

In his nationwide address Monday night, Ramaphosa lashed ‘opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft’. 

A woman was filed dropping her toddler from the roof of a burning shopping mall in Durban after looters ransacked the shops below and then set fire to them, threatening the apartment block above

A woman was filed dropping her toddler from the roof of a burning shopping mall in Durban after looters ransacked the shops below and then set fire to them, threatening the apartment block above

A crowd in the street could be seen catching the child and taking them to safety, leaving the mother to find another route out of the burning building

A crowd in the street could be seen catching the child and taking them to safety, leaving the mother to find another route out of the burning building

Empty shelves at a shopping mall in Durban, which has fallen victim to looting during the chaos following Zuma's arrest

Empty shelves at a shopping mall in Durban, which has fallen victim to looting during the chaos following Zuma’s arrest

South Africa entered the fifth day of rioting on Tuesday with the death toll rising to 32 as police and the military struggle to quell the looting (pictured: Jabulani Mall in Soweto) and violence in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces

South Africa entered the fifth day of rioting on Tuesday with the death toll rising to 32 as police and the military struggle to quell the looting (pictured: Jabulani Mall in Soweto) and violence in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces

A police officer stands on the arm of a suspected looter while another man wields an iron bar during the violent scenes in Johannesburg on Tuesday

A police officer stands on the arm of a suspected looter while another man wields an iron bar during the violent scenes in Johannesburg on Tuesday

Angry locals launch rocks at police officers near the entrance of a looted shopping mall after the fifth day of ransacking in South Africa

Angry locals launch rocks at police officers near the entrance of a looted shopping mall after the fifth day of ransacking in South Africa

A woman wrapped in a blanket in the colours of the ruling ANC party walks past the bodies of two young men who were fleeing the police when they fell into a sewage pit and drowned in Vlakfontein, Johannesburg on Tuesday

A woman wrapped in a blanket in the colours of the ruling ANC party walks past the bodies of two young men who were fleeing the police when they fell into a sewage pit and drowned in Vlakfontein, Johannesburg on Tuesday

Metro police officers fire at protesters at Jabulani mall as the country deploys army to quell unrest linked to jailing of former President Jacob Zuma in Soweto on Monday

Metro police officers fire at protesters at Jabulani mall as the country deploys army to quell unrest linked to jailing of former President Jacob Zuma in Soweto on Monday

Police take to the streets in the Gauteng region on Tuesday

Police take to the streets in the Gauteng region on Tuesday

‘The path of violence, of looting and anarchy, leads only to more violence and devastation,’ Ramaphosa said.

The chair of the African Union Commission condemned ‘the surge of violence that has resulted in the deaths of civilians and appalling scenes of the looting’, calling ‘for an urgent restoration of order’.

The largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, announced Tuesday it would file criminal charges against Zuma’s children and the leader of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema.

In a statement, the party accused them of using ‘social media to express comments which appear to encourage and incite the violence and looting.’

Once dubbed the ‘Teflon president’, Zuma was handed the jail term on June 29 by the Constitutional Court for bucking an order to appear before a commission probing the graft that proliferated under his administration.

He started serving the term on Thursday after handing himself in to authorities.

He is seeking to have the ruling set aside. 

A South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldier along with South African Police service officers detain suspected looters at the Jabulani mall in Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Tuesday

A South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldier along with South African Police service officers detain suspected looters at the Jabulani mall in Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Tuesday

A self-armed local looks for looters inside a supermarket following protests that have widened into looting, in Durban, on Tuesday

A self-armed local looks for looters inside a supermarket following protests that have widened into looting, in Durban, on Tuesday

Smoke rises from a Makro building set on fire overnight in Umhlanga, north of Durban, on Tuesday

Smoke rises from a Makro building set on fire overnight in Umhlanga, north of Durban, on Tuesday

Zuma, 79, is a former anti-apartheid fighter who spent 10 years in jail in the notorious Robben Island jail off Cape Town.

He rose in democratic South Africa to vice president and then president, before being ousted by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in 2018 as scandals proliferated.

But he remains popular among many poor South Africans, especially grassroots members of the ANC, who portray him as a defender of the disadvantaged.

South Africa is deep in an economic malaise, with cripplingly high levels of unemployment. Economic activity had already been badly affected by restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus. 



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