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With tensions still high some concerned citizens have picked up arms in grassroot mobilisations that can easily turn violent MARCO LONGARI AFP

Armed community members and vigilante groups have stepped in to tackle unrest in South Africa, taking matters into their own hands and sometimes stoking violence as security forces struggle to restore order.

Understaffed and heavily reliant on private security companies, the police was rapidly overwhelmed when riots and looting first flared last week in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), sparked by the jailing of graft-accused former president Jacob Zuma.

Thousands of soldiers were deployed to provide reinforcements as the violence spread to Johannesburg, the country’s financial hub.

But with tensions still high in parts of KZN and a toll of over 100, some worried citizens have taken up arms to protect their communities and their property.