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Regrets in South Africa After Lives and Livelihoods Lost in Mass Unrest

Jacob Zuma under trial

Gingerly stepping over the slick, muddied floor of a supermarket in Soweto that had just been emptied and gutted by looters, the manager fretted over where neighbors would now get their food and how he would support his wife and four children.

“Our livelihoods are gone,” said Tau Chikonye, the 44-year-old manager, who had worked at the market known as the Supa Store for 13 years.

Nearby, standing in front of his five-bedroom home, a laid-off hotel worker who had joined in the looting — carting away flour, chicken, Pepsi and dog food to his family — contemplated the damage that had been wrought: His community no longer had a store nearby for shopping.

“I feel horrible,” said the unemployed hospitality worker, Sifiso, who asked that his last name be withheld for fear of being arrested.

South Africa has been rocked to its core over the last week by looting and vandalism that has left at least 117 people dead and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, officials said. It was among the worst violence and unrest the country had seen in the nearly 30 years since the end of apartheid.

The government has deployed 10,000 troops to quell the violence, and the defense minister requested 15,000 more. As tensions cooled a bit on Thursday, many were bracing for a difficult road ahead.

The turbulence was initially triggered by the imprisonment last week of South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma, for defying a court order to testify in a corruption inquiry. Mr. Zuma, though scarred by extensive allegations of graft, nevertheless retains a loyal following.

But the unrest quickly became about broader grievances against the government and its failure to uphold the promises of a democratic South Africa. It was as though the lid blew off a pot that had been boiling for years.