JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African police said on Saturday 28 people had been arrested and one of the country’s largest highways remained closed due to violent protests linked to the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.
Protests erupted this week in parts of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Zuma’s home province, after the ex-leader turned himself over to police to serve a 15-month prison sentence for contempt to the court.
The High Court on Friday rejected Zuma’s request to overturn his arrest in a case that has been seen as a test of the rule of law of the post-apartheid nation. An hour before the decision, a Reuters photographer saw a group of protesters shouting “Zuma! burn tires and block a road.
Zuma’s imprisonment exposed deep divisions within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), as a faction of the party remains loyal to the former president and has been a powerful source of opposition to his successor, Cyril. Ramaphosa.
KZN Police spokesman Jay Naicker said all 28 arrests had taken place since Friday on charges of public violence, burglary, malicious damage to property and violation of COVID-lock rules. 19.
He said protesters torched trucks near Mooi River, a town on the N3 highway from Durban to Johannesburg, and shops looted in Mooi River and eThekwini, the municipality that includes Durban.
Law enforcement officers have been deployed to all districts of the province, but there have been no deaths or injuries so far, he added. At lunchtime, the N3 was closed at Mooi River.
Ramaphosa, whose allies organized the ouster of Zuma in 2018, said in a statement that “the criminal elements must be fought with the full force of the law.”
Asked about the protests of the public broadcaster SABC, a spokesperson for the Zuma charitable foundation said, “The righteous anger of the people is due to the injustices they see being inflicted on President Zuma.”
Zuma was sentenced to jail for defying a Constitutional Court order to testify in a high-level corruption investigation during his nine years in office.
He denies that there was widespread corruption under his leadership, but refused to cooperate with the investigation that was put in place during his final weeks in office.
Zuma challenged his sentence in the Constitutional Court, in part because of his alleged fragile health and the risk of catching COVID-19. This challenge will be heard on Monday.
KZN Prime Minister Sihle Zikalala said in a video message that the provincial government understood the “extreme anger” of the protesters.
“We find ourselves in a unique situation … in which 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. “
Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Christina Fincher