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S.Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal sets state of disaster after unrest

The government of the province worst-hit by recent deadly unrest in South Africa on Thursday declared a state of disaster to divert funds towards recovery.

Riots flared in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province a day after South Africa’s ex-president Jacob Zuma was jailed for contempt of court on July 8.

The turmoil spiralled into a spate of violence and looting that spread to the financial capital Johannesburg, killing at least 330 people and gutting thousands of businesses.

The KZN government declared a localised state of disaster on Thursday after a preliminary assessment of the damage put the cost at around 1.6 billion rand ($110 million).

“The situation is beyond the provincial and municipal capacity to deal with the cost,” it said in a statement.

The declaration “will support the re-prioritisation of budgets to implement the repairs and recovery programmes,” it said.

At least 40,000 businesses have been affected by the unrest, according to official figures, putting 150,000 jobs at risk.

Trade Minister Ebrahim Patel on Thursday said that across the country looted businesses had suffered around five billion rand in damages.

He announced a 3.9 billion rand government package to help businesses rebuild and said a further 50 million rand had been pledged by big companies.

Zuma’s supporters are accused of fomenting the week-long chaos, the worst bout of violence to hit South Africa since the end of apartheid.

His successor Cyril Ramaphosa has described the looting as an orchestrated attempt to destabilise the country and vowed to crack down on alleged instigators.