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South Africa President: Riots over Zuma jailing pre-planned

South Africa President, Cyril Ramaphosa has said the violence that has rocked the country was pre-planned, describing it as an assault on democracy.

Riots were sparked by the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma.

The death toll has risen to 212, up by almost 100 since Thursday, the government said.

Police officers have been protecting deliveries of food to supermarkets after days of widespread looting led to shortages.

An estimated $1bn (£720m) worth of stock was stolen in KwaZulu-Natal with at least 800 retail shops looted, a mayor in the province said.

“It is quite clear that all these incidents of unrest and looting were instigated – there were people who planned it and coordinated it,” Mr Ramaphosa said in a visit to KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Zuma’s home province and the epicentre of the violence.

The president said the riots were an attempt to hijack South Africa’s democracy. He told cheering party supporters that instigators had been identified, but didn’t elaborate.

“We are going after them,” he told reporters.

In KwaZulu-Natal, many have been queueing for food, with some lining up from the early hours of the morning just to get a few items.

People queueing told the BBC they were concerned about feeding their families, getting formula and nappies for their babies, and even food for their pets.

The week of violence in the province has left roads damaged or blocked by rioters and the government wants to make sure the food supply is not disrupted, said Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, an acting minister.

Members of the army have been deployed to protect national key flashpoints and the police are providing escorts for the transportation of oxygen, medicines and other key goods, she said.

Protests began last week after Zuma handed himself in to police to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of court.

Zuma’s supporters reacted furiously to his imprisonment, blockading major roads and calling for a shutdown to demand his release.

The protests descended into riots on a scale rarely seen in South Africa. Businesses in every sector were looted, burnt and petrol-bombed in cities and towns across KwaZulu-Natal, as well as Gauteng, which surrounds the country’s biggest city, Johannesburg.

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