Soweto calm after a week of violence

2015-01-23 10:38

Tension in Soweto appeared to have dissipated by this morning after a week of unrest and looting in which at least two people died.

The Johannesburg metro police escorted five trucks loaded with goods from shops owned by foreigners last night.

Mbi Rashed, a Bangladeshi, said he suffered huge losses when his shop was attacked and looted. The shop was closed.

Foreigners have left Soweto, fearing for their safety.

Residents of Mofolo, near the Ikwezi train station, milled around a looted shop.

“They have left. They were attacked yesterday,” said a woman who identified herself as Tebogo.

The unrest began on Monday when a shop owner shot dead a 14-year-old boy he accused of trying to break into his shop.

The shop owner was arrested and appeared in court yesterday. He is expected to appear again next week.

On Wednesday night, a foreigner was killed in ongoing looting.

Dozens of people arrested for the looting incidents were expected to appear in courts around Soweto today.

At least another 39 people were nabbed as police monitored the township last night, bringing the total number of arrests to 121, said Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant General Lesetja Mothiba.

Mothiba said police from various police stations had been called back from their rest days.

“Members working administration duties at both provincial and cluster levels were also called in to saturate Soweto with a view of preventing further looting from taking place.”

He said the police had identified hot spots in Naledi, Jabulani, Dobsonville, Protea Glen and Moroka, where deployment had been intensified.

He said the police were managing the situation.

“Police aren’t overwhelmed,” Mothiba told reporters at the Moroka police station in Soweto.

A journalist asked Mothiba whether he was aware of allegations made by some locals that police officers stood by and watched while the looting took place.

Mothiba denied this was the case.

“The public need to know how police deal with public disorder,” said Mothiba.

He explained that yesterday he was part of a small police team that responded to a looting incident in Dobsonville.

They arrived at the scene but could not immediately act as they waited for back-up.

Mothiba said in all the incidents they reported to, they tried to “avoid the loss of life”.

Police were not going to tolerate people who chose to take the law into their own hands, he said.

Those arrested faced charges ranging from murder and attempted murder to possession of suspected stolen property and fraud.

Police had also retrieved 11 guns, 10 of which were seized from foreign nationals.

Information around the killing of the immigrant was scarce and no arrests had been made.

Reports of a third death could not be confirmed by the police.

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