Police call for calm in Soweto after looting

Police closed down a vehicle spares shop in Krugersdorp, on the West Rand, where stolen car parts were found and the owner arrested for being in possession of stolen items. / Veli Nhlapo
Police closed down a vehicle spares shop in Krugersdorp, on the West Rand, where stolen car parts were found and the owner arrested for being in possession of stolen items. / Veli Nhlapo

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. A number of 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.

The attack saw foreign traders in Johannesburg force police to retreat under a rain of stones as they attempted to force their way into some buildings believed to be used to store counterfeit goods.

Last week, police reclaimed control of the CBD through operation "Okae Molao", which saw seven assault rifles, three pistols and millions of rands worth of counterfeit goods being confiscated.

"We condemn the looting that happened last night [Wednesday] 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 them 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 yesterday 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.

Police were also able to locate and shut down a vehicle spares shop in Krugersdorp where stolen car parts were found. The West Rand has become synonymous with illegal mining activities.

"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 [been] successful working with mining companies. They (zama-zamas) mushroom everywhere but we're working on it," he said.

Community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko praised police for their swift reaction in some townships where they were able to prevent the looting.

Townships that were affected in Soweto included Zola, Emndeni, Moletsane, White City, Zondi, Orlando and Rockville.

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

Premier David Makhura also urged Gauteng residents not to allow criminals to commit crime in their name. He said police officers were working hard to fight crime in the province.

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