JOHANNESBURG (South Africa): South African police said on Saturday that 27 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 jail term for contempt of court.
On Friday, the high court dismissed Zuma’s application to have his arrest overturned, in a case seen as a test of the post-apartheid nation’s rule of law.
Provincial police spokesperson Jay Naicker said law enforcement officers had been deployed to all districts in KZN and were on high alert.
He said protesters had set alight some trucks near Mooi River, a town on the N3 highway that leads from Durban to Johannesburg, and shops had been looted in Mooi River and eThekwini, the municipality that includes Durban.
On Friday, a Reuters photographer saw a group of protesters shouting “Zuma!” as they burned tyres and blocked a road leading to Durban.
Naicker said there had been no deaths or injuries in the protests so far.
Zuma was given the jail term for defying an order from the constitutional court to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in power from 2009. Zuma denies there was widespread corruption under his leadership but has refused to cooperate with the inquiry, which was set up in his final weeks in power.
Zuma has challenged his sentence in the constitutional court, partly on the grounds of his alleged frail health and risk of catching COVID-19. That challenge will be heard on Monday.
In a video posted on Twitter on Friday, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said the provincial government understood the “extreme anger” of those protesting but called for violence to stop.
“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.”