BWI expresses concern over South Africa’s violent unrest amidst pandemic

Amidst South Africa’s attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19, the country was rocked by massive public unrest and violence allegedly triggered by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma, who was charged with 16 cases of fraud, graft and racketeering. 

According to various reports, crowds clashed with police and ransacked and/or set ablaze shopping malls and other establishments in cities across South Africa, with more than 200 people killed. 

The government is reportedly working to halt the spread of the violence and looting, which has spread from Zuma's home in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province to the country's biggest city of Johannesburg and surrounding Gauteng province, and to the Indian Ocean port city of Durban.

The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) expressed its serious concerns over the fast deteriorating peace and order situation in South Africa. It stressed that the pubic unrest has impacted negatively on the country’s healthcare and emergency services, and has even brought the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines to a near standstill in at least two provinces.

The global union also said that the risk of the public unrest becoming a super spreader event cannot be discounted, as people move in large groups with complete disregard for health and safety protocols. 

BWI called on the South African government to address the root causes of the public unrest, such as poverty, inequality and widespread unemployment, and exercise maximum tolerance as it takes the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of the people.