After South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma was imprisoned, a wave of rioting, looting, and violence swept over the country this week, with mobs setting fire to and ransacking every establishment in sight. 

Police reported the rioting had gotten worse as Zuma appealed his 15-month prison sentence to the country’s highest court.  At least six people were killed, Reuters reported.

In Pietermaritzburg, in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), smoke billowed from burning structures, and things from burgled shops were strewn down the side of the road. The intermittent pro-Zuma protests have since devolved into looting and burning, primarily in KZN and Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg, the country’s capital.

“What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a late-evening address on Monday, July 12.

In video footage, citizens are seen using shotguns loaded with birdshot and less-lethal ammo to engage a large group of looters on a highway. In another video, residents confront looters with pistols on a busy street, National File reported.

Because of the massive looting, residents have set up checkpoints so that rioters can be examined for stolen goods and evidence of involvement in criminal activity.

Several moments from the riots seemed identical to those that wreaked havoc in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2020.

As looters run amok in various places, the South African police reaction has been widely criticized on social media and viewed as cowardly.