On Saturday, South African police said that 28 people had been arrested over violent protests linked to former president Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment.
Protests raged this week in parts of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Zuma’s home province, after the former president handed himself over to police to serve a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court.
In a case considered as a test of the post-apartheid nation’s rule of law, the high court refused Zuma’s bid to have his arrest overturned on Friday.
Law enforcement officers had been sent to all districts in KZN and were on high alert, according to provincial police spokesperson Jay Naicker.
He claimed that demonstrators set fire to some lorries near Mooi River, a town on the N3 highway between Durban and Johannesburg, and that shops in Mooi River and eThekwini, the municipality that encompasses Durban, had been plundered.
Demonstrators were spotted burning tyres and blocking a road going to Durban on Friday, shouting “Zuma!”
According to Naicker, no one has died or been injured as a result of the protests thus far.
Zuma was sentenced to prison for ignoring a constitutional court order to testify at a high-level corruption inquiry during his nine years in power, beginning in 2009. Zuma denies that extensive wrongdoing existed during his leadership, but he has refused to participate with the investigation, which was launched in his final weeks in office.
Zuma has filed a constitutional challenge to his sentence, citing his purported poor health and risk of contracting COVID-19. On Monday, the challenge will be heard.
KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said the provincial administration understood the protesters’ “extreme anger” in a video broadcast on Twitter on Friday, but urged for the violence to cease.
“We find ourselves in a very unusual and unique situation wherein we are dealing with the arrest of the former president,” he said. “Unfortunately violence and destruction often attack and affect even people who are not involved.”