MILITIAS armed with rifles in South Africa are guarding against looters as the worst violence since the end of apartheid leaves 75 dead.
The impromptu militia vigilantes have stepped into the vacuum left by a police force hopelessly overstretched by the spiralling chaos that seen deadly stampedes and a hospital torched.
Rioting has sparked by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma last week for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry.
But this has now widened into looting and an outpouring of general anger over poverty has plagues the country 27 years after the end of apartheid.
Ten people were trampled to death during a stampede at a looted shopping mall in Soweto, Johannesburg.
And footage shared on social media appeared to show the Lenmed Hospital in Durban in flames.
Other videos showed shopkeepers opening fire on a crowd of looters.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s largest refinery SAPREF in Durban has been temporarily shut down due to the unrest and supermarkets haves shuttered, sparking fears of fuel and food shortages.
CITIZENS FORM ‘DEFENCE SQUADS’
Police and military eventually responded to the chaos, firing stun grenades and rubber bullets to try to halt the unrest.
But authorities are drastically overstretched and scared South Africans have been forming “defence squads” to guard homes and businesses.
Resident Pierre Gildenhuys told the Daily Telegraph: “These guys are doing an amazing job.
“Without these defence lines that they set up yesterday the situation could have been infinitely worse.”
Shopping malls and warehouses have been ransacked or set ablaze in several cities, mostly in Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province to the country’s biggest city Johannesburg and surrounding Gauteng province.
Overnight the turmoil spread to two other provinces — Mpumalanga, just east of Gauteng, and Northern Cape, police said in a statement.
The United Nations in South Africa expressed concern that the violence was disrupting transport for workers and medical staff and causing shortages of food, medicine and other essential products.
A spokesman said: “This will exacerbate the already social and economic hardships caused by joblessness, poverty and inequality in the country.”
Security officials said the government was working to halt the spread of the violence and looting.
The national prosecuting authority has said it will punish those caught looting or destroying property, a threat that so far has done little to deter them.
Soldiers have been sent onto the streets to help outnumbered police contain the unrest.