This includes 10 people killed in a stampede during looting on Monday night at a shopping centre in Soweto.
The BBC filmed a baby being thrown from a building in Durban that was on fire after ground-floor shops were looted.
The military has now been deployed to help the police overstretched since the unrest began last Thursday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has called it some of the worst violence witnessed in South Africa since the 1990s, before the end of apartheid, with fires set, highways blocked and businesses and warehouses looted in major cities and small towns in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.
Ministers have warned that if looting continues, there is a risk some areas could run out of basic food supplies soon, but have ruled out declaring a state of emergency.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said some 26 people had been killed in the province so far. In Gauteng the death toll is 19, including the 10 who died at the shopping centre in Soweto.
More than 200 shopping malls had been looted by Monday afternoon, Bloomberg news agency quoted the chief executive of Business Leadership South Africa, Busisiwe Mavuso, as saying.
The BBC’s Vumani Mkhize says several shopping centres in Soweto – South Africa’s largest township which was once home to Nelson Mandela — have been completely ransacked, with ATMs broken into, restaurants, stores selling alcohol and clothing shops all left in tatters.
Soldiers working with the police managed to catch a few rioters; in total almost 1 300 have been arrested, but law enforcement remains heavily outnumbered, he reports.
In KwaZulu-Natal — where livestock has also been stolen — the unrest continues with ambulances coming under attack by rioters in some areas, South Africa’s TimesLIVE news site reports.
Video footage shows that a blood bank was looted in Durban as Mr Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday night. — BBC.