MEMBERS of the SA Unemployed People's Movement went on the rampage yesterday afternoon, looting shops in Durban's city centre.

The movement, which claims to represent 26 million unemployed people in the country, had warned during last week's protest that if they don't get a positive response from the municipality they would unleash their members to loot.

Nearly 200 people gathered yesterday morning and a decision to loot shops was taken. People, mostly women, went to Shoprite Checkers while others went to Pick n Pay.

Sowetan witnessed people carrying grocery items from the stores .

A cashier at Pick n Pay, who asked not to be named, said they were busy helping customers when the group of unemployed people came into the store and loaded groceries into trolleys.

"At first I thought it was a joke but when the group started singing freedom songs and going past the tills without paying I realised they were serious."

At Shoprite one member of the group chanted "Amandla", as he was led into a police van.

This made some of the members, who had not been arrested, pledge their support by accompanying their colleagues to the Durban central police station, where they were kept.

Nozipho Mteshana, the movement's national spokesperson, said what happened in Durban was "the beginning".

She said they marched last week to the city hall, where they asked the city's authorities to forward their memorandum to the Presidency.

"We made it clear that if we don't get a positive response from the municipality to our grievances, we would allow people to loot shops," Mteshana said.

She warned that unless their demand for a basic income grant was met more looting would take place.

"People are unemployed and those who had been working are losing their jobs daily and our government is doing nothing."

Police spokesperson Captain Khephu Ndlovu confirmed that 100 people were arrested.

"Fifty people were arrested at Shoprite in Smith Street. Of those arrested, 35 were women and 15 men. And at Pick n Pay at the Workshop Shopping Mall, 50 people were arrested, mainly women," Ndlovu said.

Ndlovu said police had been informed of the gathering and decided to deploy their members there.

"Had we not been there in great numbers the situation could have spun out of control," he said.

The people arrested are expected to appear at the Durban magistrate's court today to face charges of shoplifting or alternatively theft.