Heavy police presence in Gauteng's xenophobic hot spots

2015-04-17 17:14
(File, Nielen de Klerk, News24)

(File, Nielen de Klerk, News24)

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Johannesburg - Police are maintaining a heavy presence in Jeppestown and Cleveland, in central Johannesburg, and Makause in Primrose, on the East Rand, following a spate of xenophobic activity in the areas, Gauteng Deputy Commissioner Theko Pharasi said on Friday.

"We [are] on the ground, we will reinforce and make sure we are at all corners of the province," he told reporters in Johannesburg.

He said those who were chasing foreign nationals out of the country were "not human" and urged both sides to communicate with one another. 

"Dialogue ensures that we live in peace. We are there for our citizens and will ensure that we will normalise the situation."

A total of 18 people have been arrested for malicious damage to property after a number of shops were damaged and looted along Jules Street in Jeppestown and Cleveland since Wednesday. 

Gauteng police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini said 12 of the 18 were arrested between Thursday night and Friday morning. Six others were arrested on Wednesday night.

Dlamini said about 50 foreign nationals had sought refuge at the Cleveland police station on Wednesday night following the attacks and threats. They have since returned to their homes.

State Security Minister David Mahlobo told Eyewitness News in an interview earlier that he suspected the attacks on foreign nationals, that started in KwaZulu-Natal and spread to Gauteng, were part of a "co-ordinated effort".

Five people, including a 14-year-old boy, have been killed since unrest broke out last weekend. On Thursday, a peace march against xenophobia turned violent when the police clashed with pockets of protesters.

Warning messages

Earlier this week, messages warning foreigners of imminent attacks in Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria were spread via SMS and WhatsApp.

"Just those prank messages is a co-ordinated effort," said Mahlobo. "But the intelligence services, they are hard at work.

"We know that there are instigators in those various communities and these are the individuals that we are going to bring... to book."

The minister said citizens would not just wake up one morning and decide to embark on violent action.

Pharasi told reporters that the messages were attempts to cause tension between South Africans and foreign nationals. He said police were investigating the source of the messages.

On Thursday, public order police officers fired rubber bullets at a group of hostel dwellers in Wattville on the outskirts of Actonville in Benoni.

Actonville's police spokesperson, Ramothakhi Maqabe, said police were responding to threats of xenophobic action against foreign nationals in the area.

Maqabe said a handful of Public Order Police (POP) entered the hostel to check for any irregular activity. Some of the hostel dwellers were gathered outside the hostel across the road from several shops.

"[They were] singing and threatening to loot the foreign-owned shops," said Maqabe.

Police officers fired rubber bullets and released tear gas as they attempted to push the men back inside the hostel.

He said police had advised locals to be on the alert and most of the shop owners opposite the hostel closed shop on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear whether the shops had re-opened on Friday.

Read more on:    police  |  johannesburg  |  xenophobia

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