The government on Wednesday sought to deploy around 25,000 troops to curb unrest, now in its sixth straight day, amid fears of food and fuel shortages as disruption to farming, manufacturing, and oil refining began to bite.
Looting has hit supply chains and transport links especially in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, impacting goods and services around the country.
The government said 208 incidents of looting and vandalism were recorded on Wednesday as the number of troops deployed doubled to 5,000.
But Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula later told Parliament she had “submitted a request for deployment of plus-minus 25,000” soldiers. Troop deployments are authorized the president.
She did not say when the exta troops would be on the streets.
The government had been under pressure to increase boots on the ground to quickly put a lid on the violence pummelling an already struggling economy.
The country’s consumer goods regulatory body estimated that more than 800 retail shops had been looted.
President Cyril Ramaphosa met leaders of political parties and cautioned that parts of the country “may soon be running short of basic provisions following the extensive disruption of food, fuel, and medicine supply chains”.
On Tuesday, the country’s largest refinery Sapref shuttered its plant in Durban, responsible for a third of South Africa’s fuel supply.
“It’s inevitable that we will have fuel shortages in the next couple of days or weeks,” the Automobile Association’s Layton Beard said.
– ‘Massive humanitarian crisis’ –
The lootings have “seriously compromised our energy security and food security,” said Bonang Mohale, chancellor of University of the Free State.
The violence has also disrupted the coronavirus vaccine rollout and medicines deliveries to hospitals, said Mohale, echoing similar reports from hospitals.
The country, which has recorded more than 2.2 million infections, is in the midst of a brutal virus third wave.
Christo van der Rheede, executive director of the largest farmers’ organization, AgriSA, said producers were struggling to get crops to market because of the logistical “shambles”.
He warned that if law and order were not restored soon, “we are going to have a massive humanitarian crisis”.
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