Mnangagwa calls for regional peace as South Africa is engulfed by worst violence

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PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has called Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries to draw lessons from their historical past and unite against ensuing instability in the region.

Mnangagwa said this as crowds clashed with police and ransacked or burned shopping malls in South Africa on Tuesday, with dozens reported killed as grievances unleashed by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma boiled over into the worst violence in years.

He made the remarks at the Heroes Acre Monday at the twin burials of the late Zimbabwe National Army Commander,  Lt- General Edzai Chimonyo and Michael Chakabva.

“As we face the present security threats in our region, it is imperative that we draw lessons from this common history and consolidate our unity and contribute towards stability peace and harmony, and prosperity for our people,” Mnangagwa said.

“SADC, Africa and the world at large can only develop in an environment of peace security, fairness justice and freedom,” he said.

The remarks come amid worsening violence in gas-rich northern Mozambique’s  Cabo Delgado province. Violence and looting have also erupted in neighbouring South Africa and eSwatini.

On Friday after the 16-member SADC approved last month the deployment of joint forces to help Mozambique respond to the nearly four-year-old conflict, which has killed some 3 000 people and displaced one million.

Mnangagwa stressed there was, therefore, a strong need for SADC countries to remain guided by the values which the past liberation heroes fought for.

“The late national heroes understood these cardinal requisites and served wholeheartedly to achieve these aspirations. The burden is now with us to follow in their steps,” he said.

“The form, nature, and strategies of our country’s detractors, sell-outs and their appendages are glaring and known. Hence, we must remain resolute, focused, and steadfast, resisting and deconstructing their machinations and narratives which aim to retard national progress.”

Mnangagwa described Chimonyo as a man of few words who was dependable

“His death has once again robbed our nation of a gallant and decorated military personality. He was the serving Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army. His untimely passing on comes only a few weeks before we commemorate Defence Forces Day.”

Looting

Protests that followed Zuma’s arrest last week have widened into looting and an outpouring of generalised anger over inequality that persists 27 years after the fall of apartheid. Poverty has been exacerbated by severe social and economic restrictions aimed at blocking the spread of COVID-19.

Security officials said the government was working to halt the spread of the violence and looting, which has so far spread from Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal province to Gauteng province surrounding the country’s biggest city Johanesburg. They deployed soldiers onto the streets to try to contain it, but stopped short of declaring a state of emergency.

“No amount of unhappiness or personal circumstances from our people gives the right to anyone to loot, vandalise and do as they please and break the law,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told a news conference, echoing sentiments expressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa overnight.

The bodies of 10 people were found on Monday evening after a stampede at a Soweto shopping mall, premier David Makhura said.

Hundreds of looters raided warehouses and supermarkets in Durban, one of the busiest shipping terminals on the African continent and a major import-export hub.

Outside a Durban warehouse of retailer Game, Reuters filmed looters stuffing cars with electronic goods and clothes. Inside, the floor was a wreckage of discarded packaging as the crowd systematically emptied the shelves.

Aerial footage from local channel eNCA showed black smoke rising from several warehouses, while debris lay strewn.

Troops were moving into flashpoints on Tuesday as outnumbered police seemed helpless to stop the unrest. Columns of armoured personnel carriers rolled down highways.

The rand , which had been one of the best performing emerging market currencies during the pandemic, dropped to a three-month low on Tuesday, and local and hard currency bonds suffered.

UNFULFILLED PROMISE

At least 45 people have so far been killed duringthe unrest, 19 in Gauteng and 26 in KwaZulu-Natal, according to state and provincial authorities. Police Minister Cele put the official death toll at 10.

On the streets, protesters hurled stones and police who responded with rubber bullets, Reuters journalists said.

In Soweto, police and military were patrolling as shop owners assessed the damage.

Cele said 757 people had been arrested so far. He said the government would act to prevent it from spreading further and warned that people would not be allowed “to make a mockery of our democratic state”.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, speaking at the same news conference, said she did not think a state of emergency should be imposed yet.

Zuma, 79, was sentenced last month for defying a constitutional court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018. read more

The legal proceedings have been seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law.

But any confrontation with soldiers risks fuelling charges by Zuma and his supporters that they are victims of a politically motivated crackdown by his successor, Ramaphosa.

The violence worsened as Zuma challenged his 15-month jail term in South Africa’s top court on Monday. Judgement was reserved until an unspecified date. read more

The deteriorating situation pointed to wider problems and unfulfilled expectations that followed the end of white minority rule in 1994. The economy is struggling to emerge from the damage wrought by Africa’s worst COVID-19 epidemic, with authorities repeatedly imposing restrictions on businesses.

Growing joblessness has left people ever more desperate. Unemployment stood at a new record high of 32.6% in the first three months of 2021.

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