SOUTH AFRICA – Several people have been arrested in South Africa after violence erupted following the jailing of former president Jacob zuma.
Pro-Zuma protesters flooded the streets after the 79-year-old handed himself to authorities on Wednesday to begin a 15-month sentence.
South Africa police said criminals had infiltrated the protests and were taking advantage of the chaos, which spread from his home province of KwaZulu-Natal to Johannesburg, in Gauteng.
The BBC reported that more than 60 people had been arrested by the time of going to press.
Earlier today, protesters armed with sticks, golf clubs and branches were seen marching through Johannesburg’s central business district.
The night before, some 300 people had barricaded a major highway in Johannesburg, according to NatJOINTS, the national intelligence body. Images showed buildings and cars on fire.
About 800 people were also involved in an incident in which one police officer was shot in Alexandra, a township in Johannesburg – South Africa’s economic hub. Two other officers were hurt.
Police also responded to reports of looting in both Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal.
It is unclear if they are linked to the pro-Zuma protests, with KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman Jay Naicker telling news agency Reuters officers had seen “criminals or opportunistic individuals trying to enrich themselves during this period”.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa appealed for calm on Sunday evening, acknowledging that “there are those who may be hurt and angry”, but adding “there can never be any justification for such violent, destructive and disruptive actions”.
The jailing of a former president is unprecedented in South Africa, which has been gripped by Zuma’s legal turmoil.
He was sentenced for contempt of court, after failing to attend an inquiry into corruption during his presidency.
Zuma denies corruption and has not co-operated with the legal process.
The case is due back in the Constitutional Court on Monday, with Zuma’s team hoping to get his sentence rescinded or reduced. On Friday, South Africa’s High Court dismissed an attempt to stay his arrest.