Looters raided shops, attacked each other, the army and police after breaching one of the strictest lockdowns in the world.
Police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the mobs but local community leaders fear more outbreaks of violence are imminent.
The unrest comes after a report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa warned that the coronavirus death toll across Africa could reach 3.3million people.
The continent has seen only 20,000 cases and 1,000 deaths so far, but those figures are expected to rise over the coming months.
The report said that if stricter protective measures are not introduced, the virus could spread to almost all of Africa’s 1.2billion people.
South Africa’s lockdown was imposed before a single death had been recorded and has been ruthlessly enforced by the authorities ever since.
Rioting broke out in deprived areas of Cape Town where millions are currently confined to crammed townships.
Those waiting for much-needed aid built barricades of burning tyres and fought running battles with similar scenes witnessed in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
A total of 52 of Africa’s 54 countries have now reported cases of the killer virus with the number of infection approaching 20,000.