Food and fuel shortages in South Africa have grown so severe amid deadly rioting and looting that some on the front lines are considering cannibalism, according to a report.
“We are on the verge of eating each other,” community leader Nhlanhla Lux told the Financial Times as he and a group of other armed men dug in to defend the Maponya Mall in Soweto from looters.
“The biggest mall that employs the biggest number of people is the one left standing,” the 33-year-old, clad in camouflage and carrying a pistol, told the outlet of the mall. “If it falls, it’s the last elephant.”
Sporadic violence began last week in protest of former President Jacob Zuma beginning a 15-month sentence for refusing to appear at an inquiry into alleged corruption during his time in office.
From its origin in Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal province, the unrest has since spread to cities across the nation, including Johannesburg, reportedly killing at least 117 people and choking major commercial roads, leading to dire shortages of food and fuel.
It also gained steam from people’s frustrations with ongoing closures and economic stagnation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disturbing video footage and accounts have emerged from the country of malls being scavenged clean by hundreds of looters then torched, and gun battles in the street.
The chaos marks the worst crisis the nation has seen since apartheid ended nearly 30 years ago.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has deployed some 25,000 troops in a bid to quell the riots.
But the rollout comes with supply shortages already gripping the nation, due in part to violent demonstrations in the major port city of Durban, in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
Political opponents of Ramaphosa criticized what they called a lack of urgency in the response, and called the unrest a side effect of his efforts to unify factions of the African National Congress by combatting corruption, such as that alleged against Zuma.
“It is a war zone … towns deserted, shops looted, bodies lying on the road,” John Steenhuisen, a leader within the opposition Democratic Alliance, told the Financial Times. “We have an internal ANC battle that has spilled over on to the streets of KwaZulu-Natal … The initiative has been completely lost by the security services. They need urgent reinforcement.”
With government troops slow in arriving, local police and order-minded civilians like Lux have become the only thing standing between some businesses and the mob.
“We can’t sit back while the township economy dilapidates further,” Lux told the Financial Times. “I for one am prepared to die.”
With Post wires