The death toll in the unrest that shook the country this week has risen to 212 and the number of arrests to 1 692, including that of someone suspected of inciting the violence, minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said on Friday.
Ntshavheni declined to comment on reports that former intelligence operative Thulani Dlomo had handed himself over to the police. She said the person arrested had not yet appeared in court and could therefore not be identified.
He was believed to feature prominently on a list of 12 instigators of the vandalism triggered by demands for the release of former president Jacob Zuma from prison, where he last week began serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court.
Dlomo was the head of the South African State Security Agency’s Special Operations Unit.
Nsthavheni said 180 people had died in the protests in KwaZulu-Natal — with seven bodies being found in a Makro store in Pietermaritzburg — and 32 in Gauteng.
Police have found thousands of rounds of ammunition in KwaZulu-Natal, which was the epicentre of the violence that also devastated Soweto, Alexandra and other parts of Gauteng.
Ntshavheni said the military deployment, which was increased tenfold from early in the week to 25 000, extended to other provinces as well.
“There are deployments across the country because we don’t want to find the people who have been inciting the violence to take advantage of other provinces,” she said.
The N2 and N3 highways have been reopened to allow fuel distribution from Durban to resume and prevent shortages.
Ntshavheni said a man in Gauteng was arrested for sending a voice note inciting violence and would face criminal charges.
Asked if the government was confident that there would be no further violence, she said it would not exclude the possibility but it could give the assurance that it would deal with any further unrest with the requisite firmness.
The situation in KwaZulu-Natal remained “tense”, she said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was due to address the nation later on Friday evening.