Gauteng police boss appeals for calm after the looting of foreigners' shops in Soweto

Gauteng police boss appeals for calm after the looting of foreigners' shops in Soweto.
Gauteng police boss appeals for calm after the looting of foreigners' shops in Soweto.

Gauteng police have called for calm in Soweto following widespread looting that engulfed several townships on Wednesday night. 

Provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela urged communities to refrain from taking matters into their own hands. Countless foreign-owned shops were plundered  in several townships. 

Community members said this was in reaction to foreign nationals attacking police officers in Johannesburg’s CBD over two weeks ago. 

Police  were embarrassed by foreign traders in Johannesburg two weeks ago,  who forced them to beat a hasty retreat under a rain of stones  as they attempted to force their way into some buildings believed to be used to store counterfeit goods.

But last week, they reclaimed control of the Johannesburg CBD through operation “Okae Molao”, which saw seven assault rifles, three pistols and millions of rands worth of counterfeit goods being confiscated by the police in the inner city.

“We condemn the looting that happened last night in Soweto. We call upon Soweto people to calm down and not take matters into their own hands. If they have concerns then they need to bring it to our attention because we are the custodians of the law,” Mawela said. 

He was speaking at the West Rand leg of operation Okae Molao in Kagiso on Thursday morning. Mawela said 16 undocumented persons were arrested during the operation while two stolen vehicles were recovered.

“We have also recovered six illegal firearms and arrested the suspects,” he said. 

The West Rand has become synonymous with illegal mining activities due to the number of mines in the area. Mawela said they have been working towards curbing the phenomenon through operations on a weekly basis.

“We have a plan of getting rid of zama zamas in this area. We have removed the shacks where they live and where they operate and have arrested over 400 illegal miners. We have good success by working with mining companies. They (zama zamas) mushroom everywhere but we’re working on it,” he said. 

Gauteng MEC for community safety Faith Mazibuko said it pained her to see videos of children participating in the lootings. 

“It can’t be right that people do these things in the name of vigilantism and then we see children running around and partaking in these illegal activities,” she said. 

Mazibuko praised the police for their quick reaction in some townships where they were able to prevent the looting. 

Townships that were affected included Zola, Emndeni, Moletsane, White City, Zondi, Orlando and Rockville. The assault on foreigners is reminiscent of a wave of xenophobic attacks that were unleashed in Soweto a year ago.

Last year's attacks on spaza shops left foreign traders counting losses following allegations that they were selling expired products.

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