The unrest triggered by the imprisonment of former South African President Jacob Zuma has claimed 276 lives, it was learnt on Wednesday.
Following his refusal to appear before a graft panel, Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court.
The 79-year-old was convicted for defying court order to testify before an inquiry probing allegations of corruption against him when he held the fort as president.
The violent demonstrations, which started in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s province, spread to Gauteng Province with many shops looted, several injured and vehicles vandalised.
An acting Minister in the President’s Office, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said investigation on the deaths resulting from the unrest showed that 276 persons have died so far, adding that 168 of the deaths were being investigated for murder.
The minister said: “Since the unrest, total of 234 deaths as related to the unrest were reported in KwaZulu-Natal to date. The SA Police Service (SAPS) are investigating 151 cases for murder and 83 inquest dockets have been opened and 15 arrests related to the cases of murder have been made,” she said.
She said “stability” had returned to the two provinces rocked by unprecedented violence and that police were carrying out “mopping-up operations to ensure opportunistic and copycat activities do not find traction”.
Gauteng Province Premier David Makhura accused criminals of hijacking the protest.
He said: “It is extremely sad. Looting is not a solution. We are losing lives. We cannot afford this. We are calling for calm; we are calling for peace.
“This is destroying everything we had been building. The progress we had made in the township economy is being reversed by this looting, destruction and shutting down. The looting has to stop.”