Police make 28 arrests on charges, including public violence, theft and violation of COVID-19 restrictions.
South African police have arrested 28 people and one of the country’s largest roads remained closed due to violent protests against the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.
Protests erupted this week in parts of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Zuma’s home province, after the ex-leader turned himself in to police to serve a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court.
On Friday, the high court dismissed Zuma’s request to overturn his arrest in a case that has been seen as a test of the rule of law in the post-apartheid nation.
Zuma’s imprisonment has exposed deep divisions in the government of the African National Congress (ANC), as a party faction 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 the 28 arrests had taken place since Friday on charges such as public violence, theft, malicious property damage and breach of COVID-19 blocking regulations.
He said protesters had set fire to some trucks near the Mooi River, a city on the N3 road leading from Durban to Johannesburg, and that shops had been looted on the Mooi River and in eThekwini, the municipality that includes Durban.
Police officers had been deployed in all districts of the province, but so far there had been no deaths or injuries, he added. The N3 closed on the Mooi River on Saturday in the early afternoon.
Ramaphosa, whose allies designed Zuma’s withdrawal in 2018, said in a statement that “criminal elements must be enforced with full force of law”.
Asked about the protests by public broadcaster SABC, a spokesman for the Zuma charity said: “The just anger of the people is due to the injustices they see dispensed to President Zuma.”
Zuma received a prison sentence for defying a constitutional court order to testify in an investigation investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office.
He denies that there was widespread corruption under his leadership, but has refused to cooperate with the investigation that began in his last weeks in office.
Zuma has challenged his ruling in the constitutional court, in part because of his alleged fragile health and the risk of capturing COVID-19. This challenge will be felt on Monday.
KZN Prime Minister Sihle Zikalala said in a video message that the provincial government understood the “extreme rage” of those protesting.
“We are in a … unique situation where we are facing the arrest of the former president,” he said. “Unfortunately, violence and destruction often attack and affect even people who are not involved.”