South Africa’s government has vowed to crack down on riots in townships where residents are demanding better basic services, such as water and housing.
“We are not going to allow anybody to use illegal means to achieve their objective,” a local government minister said on South African radio.
The warning came as the leader of unemployed protesters in Durban said the anger “was the tip of the iceberg.”
The riots are being seen as a major challenge for new President Jacob Zuma.
He promised to improve services when he came to power in May, and said fighting poverty was his priority.
This is just the tip of the iceberg and I myself cannot stop the people because they are angry
SAUPM’s Nozipho Mteshane
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“We are saying this is a government that is legitimate, has been elected democratically,” Co-operative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka said on Talk Radio 702.
“Anything that is to be done, must be done within the law and the constitution,” he said.
On Wednesday, police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators in Johannesburg, the Western Cape and the north-eastern region of Mpumalanga.
In Durban, 94 members of the South African Unemployed People’s Movement (SAUPM) were arrested after raiding two supermarkets in the city centre and helping themselves to food without paying.
“They were angry and some of them even ate the fried chicken and pies,” a woman at one supermarket told South Africa’s Witness newspaper.
Another eyewitness told the paper that the looters were shouting that they did not have food to eat.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg and I myself cannot stop the people because they are angry,” SAUPM’s chairwoman Nozipho Mteshane told South Africa’s Star newspaper.
There is anger in some of South Africa’s poorest areas
“We want the government to provide the unemployed people of this country with a 1,500 rand ($195) basic income grant,” she said.
South Africa announced in June that it was facing its worst recession in 17 years.
Fifteen years after the African National Congress won its first election, more than one million South Africans still live in shacks, many without access to electricity or running water.
The provision of housing has long been controversial – nearly three million have been built, but the allocation has been prone to nepotism and corruption, correspondents say.
The rising tensions in the townships have revived memories of xenophobic attacks on foreigners last year in which more than 60 people died.