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"It's A War Zone" - South Africa To Deploy 25,000 Troops As Country On Brink Of Civil War

July 15, 2021

Update (1121ET): AFP reports deaths in South Africa's week-long social unrest have risen to 117. A sharp rise over Wednesday's 72 figure. With unrest still present, the number is likely headed up.

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Update (1034 ET): Local newspaper "Daily Maverick" warns parts of South Africa "are on the brink of severe fuel and food shortages, with key supply routes" severed due to social unrest.

Since the riots began last week, following former president Jacob Zuma's imprisonment for contempt of court, dozens of goods trucks have been targeted by roving crowds, stripped of their cargo, and more often than not torched or dismantled for parts.

The Road Freight Association warned that the damage to trucks as well as lost income could run into billions of rands, while ongoing delays could result in shelves in shops and shopping centres standing empty.

"Depending on the category of vehicle, the type and value of cargo, and the specialised equipment required for the cargo, this can be anywhere between R3-million and R10-million per vehicle," said the association's chief executive, Gavin Kelly. "A simple calculation of capital losses of the 40 trucks destroyed to date amounts to between R250-million and R300-million."

A number of operators confirmed that the N2 and N3 highways remained closed to them by rioters, with burning tyres and debris strewn across the roads to prevent vehicles from passing.

"There will be shortages," Kelly warned. "The looting and destruction of retail points, from small businesses to large malls, from regional to national distribution centres and warehouses, will force closures."

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa also warned of food shortages, saying up to 800 retail stores had to date lost an estimated R5-billion.

"The disruption to and closure of key transport routes can potentially affect the supply chain of retail products, which could in turn create shortages of basic commodities throughout the country," it said. The crowds have also targeted manufacturing sites, forcing oil refineries that refine crude to petrol to shutter operations. Inland provinces get most of their fuel trucked in from the coast. On Wednesday morning, long queues formed at a number of petrol stations in Johannesburg as consumers looked to fill up before supplies ran dry. -Daily Maverick

Emergency food is being flown to KwaZulu-Natal, one of the provinces heavily impacted by unrest.

What comes next could be a terrible humanitarian crisis.

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In the past seven days, South Africa has never come closer to becoming a failed state. The riotous looting has reduced Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, the two provinces hit hard by the social unrest into what resembles warzones. The country quickly descended into what could be the beginning innings of a civil war, prompting the government to call up military reserves and seek deployment of up to 25,000 troops to quell the violence.

"It is a war zone . . . towns deserted, shops looted, bodies lying on the road," John Steenhuisen, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, in the province, told Financial Times. "We have an internal African National Congress battle that has spilled over on to the streets of KwaZulu-Natal . . . the initiative has been completely lost by the security services. They need urgent reinforcement."

Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal have been overwhelmed by black rioters, many of whom are supporters of former President Jacob Zuma, who was arrested earlier this month and sentenced to prison for corruption charges.

The arrest of Zuma sparked black unrest across the country, more specifically in the two provinces mentioned above.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been unable to stifle the social unrest as local police and military troops have been outnumbered. The nation remains totally lawless.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told parliament Thursday she had "submitted a request for deployment of plus-minus 25,000" soldiers. There was no word on when the additional troops would hit the streets.

Readers may recall, Wednesday evening, we reported South African Army Reserve has ordered "all Reserve Members" for duty on Thursday morning. There were no exact figures on how many reserves would be deployed.

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