Some 72 people have died and over 1,700 have been arrested since the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma sparked the country’s worst unrest in years.
Citizens are arming themselves and forming vigilante groups to protect their property from the rampage.
Some 208 incidents of looting and vandalism were recorded on Wednesday, the government said, as the number of troops deployed doubled to 5,000.
But Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she had submitted a request for the deployment of 25,000 soldiers to the two provinces hit by violence – KwaZulu-Natal, where Durban is located, and Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg.
As violence continues, looting has hit supply chains and transport links in the Johannesburg region and the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, sending a shockwave to the delivery of goods and services around the country.
Outside a branch of a popular supermarket in northern Durban’s Eastman region, around 400 people started lining up to buy food, hours before the shop was due to open.
“With [this looting], it’s an inflection point… this has now seriously compromised our energy security and food security,” Bonang Mohale, chancellor of the University of the Free State and a professor of business and economics studies, told the press.
Christo van der Rheede, executive director of the largest farmers’ organization, AgriSA, said producers were struggling to get their crops to market because the logistical network was in a “shambles”.
“We need the restoration of law and order as soon as possible because we are going to have a massive humanitarian crisis,” van der Rheede said.
“South Africa is a vast country size-wise and the Western Cape is far from the worst-hit areas. I would say it is the safest part of the country currently,” he added.
The National Hospital Network (NHN), which represents 241 hospitals, in a statement, warned of the ongoing violence’s impact on the country’s health care services, according to local media.
Due to the unrest, health care workers cannot leave their houses causing dire staff shortages while food supplies are running out at some hospitals.
The network is calling on the government to provide on-site security to hospitals and police escorts for the transport of oxygen and other medical supplies.
The NHN is deeply concerned at the slow pace in getting the situation under control, reportedly saying that the “collateral damage is simply unimaginable”. the statement adds.