South Africa deploys 10,000 troops to quell riots, minister says, as death toll in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng reaches 117

A cabinet minister has said that the number of troops on the ground in South Africa to subdue violence and looting stemming from the sentencing of former president Jacob Zuma has reached 10,000.

Speaking on Thursday evening in a televised news conference, Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said she was pleased with the reports that Gauteng province was “largely calm” and that there had been fewer incidents over the past 24 hours. 

Gauteng, which includes the Highveld cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg and is home to a quarter of the country’s population, has only experienced six reported incidents of violence and looting during the past day, according to Ntshavheni.

She said this was because of the targeted deployment of troops and police in unrest hotspots. “By this morning, 10,000 boots were already on the ground, which is an increment of 5,000 from yesterday morning,” Ntshavheni added.

The minister said that a total of 725 people had been arrested in Gauteng, and there had been 26 deaths during the unrest in the region alone.

Ntshavheni said the situation in Kwazulu-Natal remains “volatile” but there were movements towards stability. More than 1,000 people have been arrested in the eastern province and 91 have died during the unrest. 

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula insisted the country was not in a state of emergency despite the violence and looting triggered by Zuma’s imprisonment. 

Zuma was given a 15-month prison sentence for failing to attend a corruption inquiry. Twice last week his supporters gathered in front of his home to prevent him from being arrested.