Community leaders near a Soweto township addressed local residents on Wednesday calling for an end to looting in South Africa as business owners counted their losses following days of rioting.
The unrest was sparked by the imprisonment last week of ex-President Jacob Zuma that has spiraled into days of looting in two of the country’s nine provinces.
South Africa’s police say 72 people have been killed and 1,234 have been arrested in waves of rioting that have hit the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.
Many of the deaths were caused by chaotic stampedes as thousands of people stole food, electric appliances, liquor and clothing from stores, police Maj. Gen. Mathapelo Peters said in a statement.
“We have to come together take the responsibility and protect what’s left of our township economy and our communities because looting has literally robbed us of our township economy,” said one community leader Nhlanhla Lux, who spoke to locals near the Maponya Mall.
Thandi Johnson had a shop inside the Diepkloof Mall which she ran for 12 years, but in just one day she said it is now finished.
“I’m a Sowetan, I’m born here, I’m running the business here, I’m helping the community here and this is the thank you,” Johnson said while stood in her ransacked shop.
The deployment of 2,500 soldiers to support the South African police has helped to slow down the rampant looting. Although unrest continued to be reported in some areas of Johannesburg, including Vosloorus in the eastern part of the city.