Food shortages spark protests in South Africa amid coronavirus lockdown

19 April 2020, 13:53

There were clashes with residents in Cape Town amid food shortages
There were clashes with residents in Cape Town amid food shortages. Picture: Getty

By Megan White

Protests have broken out across South Africa after the coronavirus outbreak prompted nationwide food shortages.

Looters raided grocery stores and clashed with police after breaching the country’s lockdown – one of the world’s strictest.

Tensions have mounted in cities including Cape Town and Johannesburg, where many citizens live in cramped townships.

South Africa has banned citizens from buying non-essential items, including alcohol and cigarettes.

Residents of an impoverished suburb in Mitchells Plain, near Cape Town, clashed with authorities after some people did not receive food parcels
Residents of an impoverished suburb in Mitchells Plain, near Cape Town, clashed with authorities after some people did not receive food parcels. Picture: Getty

Dog-walking, outdoors exercise and unnecessary travel have also been stopped, with police and the army enforcing the measures.

Their lockdown was imposed before any Covid-19-related deaths in the country and has successfully slowed the rise in infections.

As of Saturday, there were 2,783 confirmed cases and 50 deaths since March 5.

A soldier patrols the streets in Johannesburg to enforce a national lockdown
A soldier patrols the streets in Johannesburg to enforce a national lockdown. Picture: Getty

One community leader in Cape Town pleaded with South Africa's leaders to combat food shortages, saying there was a “food crisis.”

Joanie Fredericks, who lives in the Mitchells Plain township, said: "Mr President we are in the middle of a food crisis. It's war out here.

“People have broken into tuck shops. They have attacked people. The simple reason is because they are hungry."

Police search one man in Johannesburg amid a strict lockdown
Police search one man in Johannesburg amid a strict lockdown. Picture: Getty

The plea came after President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a five-week lockdown to try curb the spread of the virus.

But food supplies are running low in many places, prompting a backlash against the government.

Across Africa, there have been more than 1,000 deaths from Covid-19, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

A total of 52 of the continent's 54 countries have reported the virus, with the overall number of cases more than 19,800 as of Saturday morning.

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The World Health Organisation has noted a 51 per cent increase in cases in Africa and a 60 per cent jump in deaths.

But the WHO chief has warned that because of a shortage of testing "it's likely the real numbers are higher than reported".

The Africa CDC has said more than one million test kits will be rolled out starting next week.

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