Seventy-two people have been killed in riots and looting in South Africa, police said Tuesday, amid protests over the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.
Violence erupted last week when Zuma began serving a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court.
In the country's worst unrest in years, looters vandalized shopping malls, other retail outlets and businesses in the province of Gauteng, which includes the country's largest city of Johannesburg. Security forces seemed unable to prevent the looting and attacks, which also occurred in Zuma's home province, KwaZulu-Natal and in Soweto.
But protesters have also taken to the street to denounce economic hardship which has increased during the pandemic over the last year.
The increased death toll comes as South Africa announced it would deploy thousands of troops to reinforce overwhelmed police officers in two states.
Police said Tuesday that most of the deaths were the result of stampedes around incidents of looting. Over 1,000 people have been arrested since demonstrations began last week.
In his address to the nation Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa denounced the violence and looting, urging calm.
"The path of violence, of looting and anarchy, leads only to more violence and devastation," Ramaphosa said.
But the Zuma Foundation said Tuesday that there would not be peace as long as the former anti-apartheid fighter was behind bars.
"Peace and stability in South Africa is directly linked to the release of President Zuma with immediate effect," the foundation wrote on Twitter.
Peace and stability in South Africa is directly linked to the release of President Zuma with immediate effect. It was just pure malice to incarcerate President Zuma whilst litigation on his Detention Without Trial case (for a civil contempt) was on-going.#WenzenuZuma - -- JGZuma Foundation (Official) (@JGZ_Foundation) July 13, 2021
Zuma was convicted of resisting a court order to testify in a state-backed investigation into allegations of corruption during his nine-year term as president that ended in 2018.
Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told reporters at the news conference she did not believe current conditions warrant imposing a state of emergency.
Zuma's lawyer argued Monday before South Africa's Constitutional Court that Zuma should have his sentence rescinded. Judges on the court said they would consider the arguments and announce their decision at a later date.
Some information for this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.