The death toll in South Africa's violent protests against the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma has risen to 23, with over 750 protesters detained, authorities said on Tuesday.
Gauteng Province Premier David Makhura said 19 people have died in his province, with 10 killed in a stampede in Soweto township as they looted a mall. He said nine others died in different circumstances during the protests.
Police Minister Bheki Cele confirmed that four people died in KwaZulu-Natal during the violent protests and rioting there.
"Law enforcement officers have been using intelligence to respond with speed to hotspots. We cannot let our democracy to be undermined," Cele said during a media briefing jointly addressed by other ministers.
Minister of State Security Ayanda Dlodlo refuted claims that plans for violence had not been detected earlier due to neglect by her agency. She said her department played its part by sharing information with other security bodies.
"Intelligence has done the best it could do," emphasized Dlodlo.
Dlodlo said she had received reports of possible attacks against foreign nationals in the country.
South Africa has previously witnessed several bouts of deadly xenophobic violence.
Violent riots and looting first broke out in the country last Thursday over the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma.
The protests that began in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal later spread to Johannesburg and have been ongoing for days.
Major shopping venues in the country's two most densely populated provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have been ransacked and some set on fire.
Vehicles and trucks were also burned by groups of protesters calling for Zuma's release from prison.
Zuma, 79, started serving a prison sentence for contempt of court in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday night.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday authorized the deployment of Defense Force personnel to support police in restoring order.
He said the violence and looting were unprecedented in post-apartheid South Africa.
On Monday morning, police were seen in running battles with looters in the town of Soweto and Eldorado south of Johannesburg.
Protesters were seen fleeing with stolen goods, including electronics, food items, and even mattresses. Some were seen hurling stones at police, who responded with rubber bullets and stun grenades.