Looters grab food from Durban stores in protest over prices

2009-07-23 00:00

CHAOS broke out in two Durban shops when an angry crowd went on the rampage and looted groceries from the stores. Police arrested 100 people who entered the Shoprite Checkers and Pick n Pay stores in central Durban yesterday.

Durban central police spokesman Captain Khephu Ndlovu said members of the SA Unemployed People’s Movement entered the stores and helped themselves to food items, apparently as part of a protest against high food prices.

Security guards tried to stop the looters, but were threatened with weapons.

Ndlovu said 35 women and 15 men were arrested at the Shoprite Checkers store in Smith Street, while 50 people were arrested at the Pick n Pay in the Workshop Shopping Centre.

An eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said she saw people run into the Shoprite Checkers and take tinned food, vegetables and meat from the shelves. “They were angry and some were even eating the roast chicken and pies. The guards closed the door, keeping the crowd and customers locked inside the store,” she said.

The woman said police arrived minutes after the crowd entered the store and forced them to lie on the floor. “The people were angry and kept shouting that they did not have food to eat. Police kept them on the floor while staff and customers were allowed to leave the store,” she said.

She said it was chaotic inside the store and staff looked traumatised when police escorted them out of the store. “I have never seen anything like this. Even people walking past the store stopped to watch the drama. Police arrested the people and took them away in police vans.”

Ndlovu said the police were tipped off about an illegal march and were deployed to monitor the area. “Our members heard the commotion and were on the scene. The crowd was quickly arrested and will be charged with illegal gathering and theft,” he said.

Brian Weyers, corporate marketing director of the Shoprite Group, said shoplifting and pilfering cost businesses millions of rands and for this reason the Shoprite Group will seek prosecution in each and every case.

Meanwhile, outside the police station, other protesters demanded the release of the suspects. Police helped to disperse the crowd.

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