Supporters of South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma looted shops and set fire to a mall on Monday, before a court hearing in which he will challenge his prison sentence for failing to attend a corruption inquiry, local TV stations reported.
The violence followed a weekend of unrest by stick-wielding protesters in South Africa. It mainly concentrated around Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), with some spilling into the main commercial city of Johannesburg.
Television channel eNCA showed footage on Monday of a blaze from the roof of what it said a mall in Pietermaritzburg, eastern South Africa, where Zuma was due to have his legal challenge heard. The channel said the motorway leading to the city had been closed to prevent further the trouble.
A police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The constitutional court sentenced Zuma to a 15-month jail term last month for defying its order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in power until 2018.
The decision to jail him was the culmination of a legal drama seen as a major test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law against powerful people.
But Zuma’s core supporters, echoing the former president’s line, say that he is victim of a political witch hunt orchestrated by allies of his rival, President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said on Sunday there was no justification for violence and that it was damaging efforts to rebuild the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.