July 16, 2021

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was due to visit KwaZulu-Natal province – one of the flashpoints of a spasm of violence and heartland of support for his predecessor Jacob Zuma – on Friday as the unrest appeared to abating.

Some companies worked to restart operations after days of looting and arson that destroyed hundreds of businesses and left more than 100 people dead.

Calm was returning in parts of the main commercial city Johannesburg, even though most shops remain closed, and operations at the ports of Durban and Richards Bay were improving.

Ramaphosa’s office said the president would visit KwaZulu-Natal to assess the impact of the violence.

The rioting broke out in several parts of the country following the jailing of Zuma last week for his failure to appear at a corruption inquiry.

It swiftly degenerated into looting and destruction, driven by widespread anger over the poverty and inequality that persist nearly three decades after the end of white minority rule.

The military called up all its reservists to bolster army and police who have struggled to contain the unrest, with the number of troops to be deployed doubling to 10,000 since Wednesday.

But pockets of unrest remained, with eNCA television reporting that a business park was torched overnight in Isipingo, a town south of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.

State logistics group Transnet said operations at the ports of Durban and Richards Bay, which had been hit by the unrest, were improving even though road closures and fuel and food shortages were constraining its supply chain.

“The Port of Richards Bay has managed to clear all shipping backlogs. Terminal operations at the Port of Durban continue to improve,” Transnet said.

The government said on Thursday the death toll had risen to 91 deaths in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s home province where his support is greatest, and stood at 26 in Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg, making a total of 117 killed so far.

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Angus MacSwan)