African Union urges restoration of order and stability in South Africa

The South African country is suffering from a wave of violent riots and looting that began last Friday
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REUTERS/TISSA NEGERI  -   A general view shows the opening of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa

The African Union (AU) condemned the "escalation of violence" in South Africa in recent days and called for an "urgent restoration of order, peace and stability" in the southern African nation, where 72 people have died in a wave of rioting and looting.

"A failure to do so will have serious impacts not only on the country but on the entire region," warned AU Commission (secretariat) chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat in a statement issued late on Tuesday.

In the message, the alliance of African countries described the "scenes of looting of public and private property" and "destruction of infrastructure" as "appalling".

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PHOTO/KAY NIETFELD - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

It also deplored the suspension of essential services (such as some health services) in the regions affected by the violence.

In recent days, other international and humanitarian organisations have also expressed concern about the situation in South Africa, such as Amnesty International and Save The Children.

"While the UN recognises the right of all South Africans to peaceful demonstration, as enshrined in the Constitution, this must be exercised responsibly," the UN representative office in Pretoria also said in a statement issued last night.

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AP/NARDUS ENGELBRECHT - A worker wearing a mask in a shopping centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

South Africa is experiencing a wave of violent rioting and looting that began last Friday, initially as protests against the imprisonment of controversial former president Jacob Zuma (2009-2018) for contempt of court for repeatedly refusing to testify on corruption charges.

Over the weekend the situation degenerated into an uncontrollable wave of looting and indiscriminate vandalism, on a scale that the country's president, Cyril Ramaphosa, compared to the convulsive transition that South Africa experienced in the early 1990s after the end of the segregationist "apartheid" system. 

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AP/THEMBA HADEBE - People affected by the coronavirus economic crisis queue for food donations south-west of Pretoria, South Africa

According to the latest figures released by the South African police, the death toll now stands at 72, with 45 dead in Gauteng (central) and 27 in KwaZulu-Natal (east), the two provinces most affected by the violence.

In total, 1,234 arrests have been made so far, but the situation remains volatile in many parts of the country as the police and army work to try to restore order.