We arrived successful the Johannesburg township of Alexandra expecting to spot the tattered aftermath of a riot, but we rapidly discovered aggregate disturbances successful this impoverished assemblage were inactive taking spot astir us.
Dozens of shops had been looted and the streets were covered successful discarded and debris successful what looked similar an municipality warzone successful South Africa.
The constabulary fired rubber bullets and teardrop state astatine crowds of mostly young men and we watched arsenic they scrambled down walls and slipped down constrictive pathways successful an effort to support clear.
As officers retreated, the crowds reappeared with individuals disappearing into shops to prime the shelves clear.
It was a signifier that repeated itself again and again.
These disturbances were triggered by the apprehension of the country's erstwhile president, Jacob Zuma, aft helium was sentenced to 15 months successful prison for refusing to enactment successful an enquiry into corruption during his 10-year presidency.
His household and supporters called for a nationalist shutdown and groups of WhatsApp-circulated dependable notes urged radical to instrumentality to the streets.
But these protests person turned into thing much unpredictable and destructive, spreading from Zuma's location state of KwaZulu-Natal into the country's economical bosom successful Gauteng.
Television quality channels broadcast unrecorded footage of radical breaking into physics shops and filling their arms with flat-screen TVs.
In Alexandra, mobs rushed successful and retired of outlets successful the Pan Africa Mall, carrying immoderate they could carry. When we entered the premises, 18 hours aft the archetypal assault, determination was practically thing left.
In the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, shops and factories went up successful flames and burnt retired trucks littered the main road betwixt Durban and Johannesburg.
South Africa's user goods assembly warned the unrest whitethorn pb to nutrient shortages arsenic deliveries person been disrupted, portion banking services and healthcare person besides been impacted.
The assembly said the events of the past fewer days volition beryllium devastating to the economy, which is already struggling to retrieve from COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Such turmoil is fraught with risk. At slightest six radical person mislaid their lives and hundreds of radical person been injured.
In Alexandra, we saw a antheral lying motionless connected the pavement extracurricular a slope subdivision with residents stepping implicit his assemblage successful an effort to debar the police.
In a nationwide address, the country's president, Cyril Ramaphosa, pleaded for calm and said members of South Africa's subject would beryllium deployed connected the streets.
He said: "The way of violence, of looting and anarchy, leads lone to much unit and devastation. It leads to much poverty, much unemployment, and much nonaccomplishment of guiltless life. This is not who we are arsenic a people."
In his address, Ramaphosa acknowledged the relation played by poorness successful these protests - a concern that has been worsened by the planetary pandemic with millions of South Africans looking for work.
"This infinitesimal has thrown into stark alleviation what we already knew: that the level of unemployment, poorness and inequality successful our nine is unsustainable," helium said.
"We cannot expect a lasting and durable bid if we bash not make jobs and physique a much conscionable and equitable nine successful which each South Africans tin enactment freely and equally."