The Centre on Wednesday raised concerns about attacks on people of Indian origin in South Africa amid escalating civil unrest in the country, India Today reported.

Last week, protests began in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal because of the imprisonment of former South African President Jacob Zuma. The Constitutional Court, the country’s highest judicial body, had on June 29 directed him to serve a 15-month sentence for refusing to appear before a commission investigating corruption allegations during his time as president from 2009 to 2018.

Zuma’s supporters, however, believe that he is a victim of a political witch-hunt, Reuters reported. They clashed with security forces in several areas of the country, burned tyres, blocked roads and ransacked shopping malls. More than 70 people have died in the violence.

India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar spoke to his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor about the matter. “Regarding reports of arson and looting against Indians and and Indian-origin South Africans, the South African side conveyed that opportunistic elements were taking advantage of the situation to engage in violence,” an unidentified official told The Times of India.

Jaishankar, who is on a visit to Tajikistan to attend meetings of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, said in a tweet, “Appreciate the conversation with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor today. She assured that her government was doing utmost to enforce law and order. Early restoration of normalcy and peace was the overriding priority.”

Ministry of External Affairs Secretary Sanjay Bhattacharyya also met the High Commissioner of South Africa to India, Joel Sibusiso Ndebele, reports said. South Africa has also emphasised the violence against Indians was not politically or racially motivated, adding that the situation was expected to improve soon.