Zuma Unrest: 26 dead, 187 arrested and over R1b in damages and loss in KwaZulu-Natal - Zikalala

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  • 26 people have been killed and 187 arrested amid the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal.
  • There has been a total loss of at least R1 billion following the looting and halting of many services.
  • Premier Sihle Zikalala said the army will be deployed to key points in the province.

The death toll from the riots in KwaZulu-Natal has risen to 26 while 187 others have been arrested in the violent unrest in the province.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said the latest fatalities were confirmed by the security cluster in KwaZulu-Natal.

"These were people that were killed during stampedes as protesters ran riot in areas including Umlazi, KwaMashu, Inanda, Phoenix, uMgungundlovu and northern KwaZulu-Natal," he said.

Zikalala said the call for the release of former president Jacob Zuma from prison was understandable but was not a justification for the looting and violence gripping the province.

READ | Zuma Unrest: Death toll rises amid stampedes - at least 45 killed in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng

"We understand that the calls for the release of former president Jacob Zuma from his current incarceration in Estcourt as the main cause of these disturbances. What may have begun as an understandable cause, supported by many, has now degenerated into criminality," he said.

In his update on the violence, looting and vandalism, Zikalala said by Monday evening 187 people had been arrested. He said the army will play a crucial role in restoring stability to KwaZulu-Natal.

"SANDF will be all over KZN. They will work at national key points, including ports and other government facilities. They will man main roads and also work in [securing] public facilities, especially our health facilities."

He said the cost of the unrest was likely in the billions.

"While we are still collating the information relating to the cost of the protests, we estimate that the destruction to both private and public infrastructure will amount to not less than R1 billion, and that is a very conservative estimate."

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He added that the unrest had impacted the economy of the province negatively.

"This is largely because the protests have targeted key economic centres and infrastructure, including shopping malls, trucks and major arterial routes such as the N2 and the N3.

He stressed:

More significantly, this violence has crippled our small and emerging businesses. Hawkers cannot sell because cities are shut down. Our fellow sisters and brothers in the taxi industry stand to lose their vehicles due to repossession by banks. Workers are losing work because industries and places of work are not operational.

The premier said the freight and retail sectors were some of the hardest hit.

"Many companies had to suspend their operations due to the inability to transport its material and stock. These incidents have the potential to dampen investor confidence and also derail our economic recovery efforts. The social costs of the damage might come in the form of increased unemployment and poverty in years to come."

Blocking of hospitals, vital care

Zikalala said the violence has had a severe impact on the health sector, which has already been under strain because of Covid-19.

"The blockading of key infrastructure, as well as provincial and local routes, has made public mobility difficult. Many hospital staff who were working during night shift last night were unable to travel.

"Matters have also been worsened by the non-availability of public transport. This must be understood clearly that the public transport has decided to stop its operations because they are fearful that their vehicles will be damaged.

"As a result of all of this, a number of hospitals, community health centres and clinics across KwaZulu-Natal have been operating on skeletal staff, with many nurses, doctors, allied health workers and support staff, including general staff workers, unable to report for work," Zikalala added.

READ | No need for state of emergency, 2 500 soldiers not a thumbsuck - defence minister

He said some clinics have had to be closed as a result of the unrest.

"Many hospitals with trauma cases are unable to undergo important operational interventions such as X-rays and others. It is extremely concerning that in some instances, the protesters stopped vehicles from delivering much-needed oxygen that was intended for use by patients battling Covid–19 and other ailments."

Zikalala said in Howick an ambulance was burnt, while another was attacked with rocks in Mariannhill.

"The protests have all but put a stop to the province's all-important Covid-19 vaccination programme. We urge everyone to know that no matter what the circumstances, they should never, ever disrupt the functioning of hospitals and clinics.

"Our people are still sick. Our people are still getting injured. Our pregnant women still need to be admitted for ante-natal care and birth delivery. They all need to be attended to by healthcare professionals or be referred to higher level institutions due to complications that need specialist care in some cases.

"With the blockades, we might start losing lives unnecessarily. We are appealing to the collective conscience of all of those who are trying to render our province ungovernable to desist from what they are doing, in order to avert unnecessary loss of lives," he said.

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