Looters, truck drivers go on rampage

Violent protests erupted yesterday with residents attacking and looting foreign-owned shops while truck drivers blockaded highways and set cars alight.

Last night, police said they were investigating a case of murder after a man was shot and killed in Hillbrow. The man was allegedly shot by a group of people who had gathered in Hillbrow but police would not say if his killing was linked to the violence.

In KwaZulu-Natal, two trucks were set alight in Montclair, south of Durban, in what appeared to be the continuation of the violence that erupted a week ago and led to the burning of trucks.

Listen | What Police Minister General Bheki Cele plans to do about violent looting in Gauteng

In the Western Cape, reports emerged that several highways were blockaded by truck drivers who joined a nationwide protest against employment of foreigners.

In Gauteng, residents went on the rampage and looted shops in Jeppestown, Malvern, Tembisa, Turffontein, Johannesburg CBD, Hillbrow, Germiston and Pretoria.

Some foreign nationals armed with sticks and rocks fought the looting mob in Johannesburg, resulting in some people being injured.

Residents blamed foreigners for allegedly peddling drugs in their communities.

Police were engaged in running battles on the streets of Tembisa yesterday morning where they used rubber bullets to disperse crowds that swarmed foreign-owned outlets. The vandalism and ransacking of properties came on the backdrop of Pretoria being put on lockdown last week after the shooting and killing of Jabu Baloyi, a taxi driver who was gunned down by an alleged drug dealer.

Tembisa residents said they were fed up with foreign nationals who were selling nyaope to their children. The incidents mostly occurred at the Vusumuzi and Oakmoor section of the township.

Six stores in the area were swarmed and the looters made off with perishables, cellphone gadgets, appliances including TVs and fridges. Resident Themba Khuzwayo said: "These people come into our community and just multiply, then they start doing whatever they want without the police stopping them. They sell drugs and don't get arrested. We don't want them anymore."

Ekurhuleni MMC for community safety Frans Mmoko said the situation was contained before it spread to other parts of the township.

"We have managed to keep the situation localised. We don't want it to spill over to other parts [of Tembisa] and we will be camping here to make sure of that," he said.

Mmoko said he suspected that the looting was a result of messages that were circulated on social media about a possible shutdown in the township.

"We have unconfirmed information that people wanted to hijack trucks and block the highways and freeways with them. We didn't want to take chances, so we placed members at spots we thought would be targeted," he said.

Meanwhile, Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) spokesperson Snr-Supt Isaac Mahamba said two trucks and a bus were hijacked and parked in the Pretoria CBD.

"A few structures were also burnt in Marabastad and several arrests were made in the process," he said.

The unrest also spread to other areas where in Turffontein residents said foreign nationals colluded with police officers to peddle drugs.

Community leader Sivu Nama told Sowetan a message was circulated on social media over the weekend that the area would be shut down so they could "cleanse their environment".

"We know for a fact that police and drug dealers work together. We see them taking bribes from drug dealers and they don't arrest them.

"Our communities are dying and crime is up because people steal to feed their urges," Nama said.

In Jeppestown, 50 vehicles were torched at a car dealership overnight while several foreign-owned shops were vandalised.

The violence in the area erupted after three people died in a blaze in Jeppestown building on Saturday night. The blaze engulfed surrounding buildings and thus led to residents resorting to looting of foreign-owned shops.

Jeppestown resident Sanele Nkosi said residents witnessed police being attacked by foreign shop owners while carrying out their duties.

"These foreigners have turned our country into a crime capital because of selling drugs to our children, and operating illegal businesses. Our own police were humiliated because foreigners are unruly and bully," said Nkosi.

Vusi Sibanda, spokesperson for the African Diaspora, said they were worried that people were being attacked while police were standing by.

"The government is ignoring the plight of our people and they need to intervene," said Sibanda.

Police spokesperson Col Lungelo Dlamini said a total of 70 people were arrested for the public violence yesterday.

Police ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Temba said minister Bheki Cele will be meeting with community leaders at Denver and Jeppe hostels.

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