Duduzane Zuma, 37, the former South African president’s son, warned the country was “just one massacre away from a complete spiralling out of control” as the violence continued for a sixth day.
Security forces have been struggling to contain the rioting and looting sparked by the jailing of the former leader for failing to appear in court on corruption charges.
In a video shared on the Instagram page of his close associate Winston Innes, Zuma said the chaos was “not a surprise” and he blamed the jailing of his dad and the Covid lockdown for the widespread unrest.
He also slammed his dad’s prison sentence as “unjust and unfair” and said he would continue to “stand by him” and call for his release.
In a message to South Africans, Zuma said: “For the people that are protesting and looting, please do so carefully and please do so responsibly. Because you cannot hold people responsible for defending what they love.
“Iâ€™m about peace, Iâ€™m about solutions, Iâ€™m unity, and the only way that weâ€™re going to get through this problem we have at hand is by unifying.
“But we need to understand the root cause of these problems, and part of the problem is poverty, unemployment, inequality, and now leaving all the politics aside, letâ€™s deal with the situation with reality in mind.
“We all know what the situation is, people that donâ€™t have and live across the roads from us, they work for us, some of them have been people that have grown up with us.
“Now, we can’t have a situation where they leave their places of work, go home and have no food on the table.”
In the 11-minute clip, Zuma said the situation had spiralled out of control due to the Covid lockdown, adding that the chaos would not be resolved without addressing the jailing of his dad.
“Two things have caused what is called civil unrest. One was the arresting and imprisonment of Jacob Zuma, and the second thing, in my firm belief, is lockdown,” he said.
“Now, if we come and lock people down further, what do we expect to happen? Thereâ€™s certain choices that weâ€™ve made that have brought us to this position that we are in today.
“Certain decisions that have been made and not made that have brought us to where we are today.
“It’s not going to help us pointing fingers and creating issues that will divide us. We need to pull together.”
‘TURNED A BLIND EYE’
Zuma said many people had “turned a blind eye” to poverty in the country.
“The issues of inequality, unemployment and poverty are real issues, and this is what is playing out in the public domain,” he said.
“Don’t ever forget people are a product of their environment. This is very simple… people are going to do this as long as there is no food on the table.
“Lift the lockdown, let people back to work, let businesses run, that is a starting point.”
At least 72 people have died and more than 1,200 arrested as thousands of people ransacked shops, stealing food, electrical appliances, alcohol and clothes.
Shocking images showed hundreds of people running towards a warehouse on Wednesday and tearing through containers.
Armed residents have taken to the streets to guard buildings as looters snatch everything from food and alcohol to big-screen televisions and furniture.
Vigilantes have said they are “willing to die” to protect the streets from looters – and a 14-year-old boy was reportedly shot dead by taxi drivers guarding a mall.
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