Twenty suspects were due in a South African court Friday to face charges of instigating riots and civil unrest that left hundreds dead and brought the country to a near-standstill last year.
Riots in July 2021 left more than 300 dead and shut down many of the country’s roads and ports.
More than a year later, police say they’re bringing the instigators of the unrest to justice. Twenty people were detained Thursday, South African police said in a statement.
They are due in court Friday afternoon in the eastern port city of Durban, which was the epicenter of the unrest.
The protests started when former president Jacob Zuma was arrested for refusing to appear before an inquiry panel into state graft under his tenure.
The marches quickly spiraled into violence and looting over several days, spreading from Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal to the financial center of Johannesburg.
Destruction of infrastructure and the looting of stores and malls cost the country’s economy an estimated $3.3 billion.
Last month, Defense Minister Thandi Modise told a news conference that only 50 people had been convicted in relation to the violence.
The perceived lack of justice has been a cause of frustration for victims and many across the country, fearing lawlessness without consequence.
More than 8,000 incidents were reported, leading to 5,500 arrests, the defense minister has said, with 2,435 cases still to reach court.
The 20 arrested on Thursday face charges that include conspiracy to commit public violence, incitement to commit public violence and incitement to commit arson.
Police say more arrests are “imminent.”