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State of disaster declared in S Africa's violence-hit province

Published July 30,2021

The premier of KwaZulu-Natal, the South African province worst hit by a week of deadly violence earlier this month, declared a provincial state of disaster on Thursday.

Premier Sihle Zikalala said in a televised broadcast this would allow authorities to reprioritize their budget towards rebuilding infrastructure and the regional economy as well as addressing racial tension that had ensued.

"We need to ensure that we rebuild quickly," he said, adding that it was important that the causal factors of the instability be addressed.

Resident coordinator of the United Nations in South Africa, Nardos Bekele-Thomas, who is currently leading a delegation to assess the damage in region, affirmed the UN's support.

"Our support to KwaZulu-Natal is unconditional," she told Zikalala at a meeting where they agreed to establish a task team between themselves and civil society organizations.

KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng province were rocked by riots, looting and vandalism that left more than 300 people dead and caused millions of dollars worth of damage in early July.

Major highways and rail routes were shut down while businesses were plundered and burned.

Only after the mobilization of 25,000 soldiers to aid local law enforcement did the security situation begin to stabilize.

Protests initially broke out over the imprisonment of ex-president Jacob Zuma for contempt of court in relation to a corruption inquiry.

But the demonstrations soon descended into arson and gunfire, with vigilante groups forming to protect property.

The violence was fanned by frustration at the persistent high unemployment rate and economic inequality, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.