Five Bodies Found Outside South African Store After Looting, Stampedes

Five men were reportedly found dead outside a store in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province after days of rioting and looting in the country sparked by the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma.

Four of the bodies were found near the Makro store in the city of Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday. The body of a fifth man was found on Thursday, according to website News24.

A source told the news outlet that the men were thought to have been killed in stampedes that broke out as people ransacked businesses in the city this week.

"Seeing our stores under attack is heartbreaking for all of us at Makro and Massmart," said Doug Jones, CEO of Massmart Wholesale, which owns Makro, in a statement posted on Twitter on Thursday.

"But while we are angry and sad in the moment, we are turning our attention to the clean up, rebuild and reopening of all our stores. We are determined and resolute."

In a tweet, Makro said all of its stores would close at 4 p.m. on Thursday to allow employees to travel home safely.

Violence erupted in KwaZulu-Natal and spread to Gauteng province, which is home to Johannesburg, after Zuma began serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court a week ago.

Message from Senior Vice President and Chief Executive at Massmart Wholesale - Doug Jones#OneRainbow #OneNation

— Makro South Africa (@Makro_SA) July 15, 2021

He was convicted of defying a court order to testify before a state-backed inquiry into allegations of corruption during his years in power.

The death toll from the unrest has climbed to at least 72 and more than 1,200 arrests have been made, the Associated Press reported.

The authorities said many of the deaths in the two provinces occurred in chaotic stampedes as thousands stole food, electric appliances, liquor and clothing from stores in poorer areas—with police and the military firing stun grenades and rubber bullets in attempts to quell the unrest.

Detectives are also investigating deaths caused by explosions when people tried to break into ATM machines, as well as shootings, police said.

The South African army has begun deploying 25,000 troops—one of the largest deployments of soldiers in the country since the end of white minority rule in 1994—to assist police in ending the riots and looting, the AP reported.

The armed patrols appear to have succeeded in bringing stability to Gauteng, but the unrest has continued in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma's home province.

Several factories and warehouses were still smoldering on Thursday after being set on fire. There were also fresh attacks on shopping malls in the province.

South African mall looted
Volunteers and local workers take part in the clean-up operation at the looted Bara Mall in Soweto, Johannesburg, on July 15. AFP via Getty Images/Luca Sola