Soweto unrest: 'Cops told us to loot'

2015-01-25 17:08

Johannesburg - Foreign shop owners and those who took part in, or witnessed, the looting of those shops last week described how police actively stole goods and helped others raid the shops during the worst attacks on foreigners South Africa has seen in seven years, City Press reports.

An estimated 120 foreign-owned or foreign-run shops were looted in Soweto and nearby Kagiso last week. Foreigners have described how some police officers told them to “go back to where you come from”, demanded bribes to do their jobs and helped themselves to goods on the shelves, including airtime and cooldrinks.

Widespread reports of criminal and xenophobic behaviour by some police officers tasked with stopping the looting in Soweto fly in the face of statements made by Gauteng police commissioner Joel Mothiba and Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane that what took place in Soweto during the course of last week was “criminal and not xenophobic”.

While looting was continuing in Soweto on Thursday, Mothiba told a press conference that the situation was “under control”.

Yesterday, 10 young Soweto residents in different parts of the township, who admitted to taking part in the looting, told City Press that the police had helped them do it.

'We took everything'

Zondi residents Charlie Masondo and Tshepo Radiapeng said they watched as police instructed looters to queue outside a foreign-owned shop and allowed four of them in at a time to prevent a stampede.

“I have never seen something like cops helping people to steal,” said Radiapeng.

Masondo said he was shocked.

“I was expecting the cops to stop the looters from stealing, but they allowed and organised them to do it. All they kept on saying was that people should not vandalise the shops,” he said.

A group of young people in Zola North recounted how they looted the Sea Point general dealer in their neighbourhood.

“We took everything. This was a fully fledged shop. There was everything here. There were six double-door fridges used for soft drinks. We took everything.”

One said the police looked on while they looted.

“They were actually helping us. They were driving a Nissan 1400 bakkie. They actually came back to look for what might have remained on Friday.”

One of the other young men, who declined to be named, showed City Press one of fridges they had looted. It has already been sold to a new owner.

'Police were standing there watching'

Next to Sea Point, there is a shop owned by a South African. It was not plundered. All foreign-owned tuck shops in Zola North were closed last week.

Foreign shop owners to whom City Press spoke on Friday told of how, in some cases, police officers refused to protect their shops, and instead helped those who were looting.

Somali shop owner Ismail Adam (29), who ran a shop in Slovoville, Soweto, said he and his brother hid in the toilet after looters struck at about 17:00 on Wednesday.

The police arrived later.

“I saw mamas come and the police gave them bread. I asked them why they gave away this bread [because it] is my money. They told me: ‘You are nothing, brother. Keep quiet – if you talk too much, I’ll give your stock away, all of it,’” said Adam.

“Even other police, I saw them come in the shops. They took Grandpa headache powder and airtime – everything. When we left, they said: ‘My friend, come here. Give us money for cool drink.’ I said I didn’t have money. They told me that if I didn’t give them money, they would leave. I gave him R200.

“There were five police cars. When the police were there, people were stealing. Police were standing there watching.”

Shukri Abdullahi (42), a shopkeeper in Meadowlands, Soweto, said looters assaulted her at the entrance to her shop in front of the police, who did nothing.

“When I asked for assistance, the police said I can go back to where I come from. There were a lot of people and they beat me up – the police did nothing.”

Fatima Hasan (27), whose brothers ran a shop in Slovoville, which was looted on Wednesday night, went to help them the next morning.

“I fell and hurt my leg because I ended up running away. The police abuse us because we are foreigners, they tell us to go away. They tell me: ‘You come here to make money in our South Africa.’ This is the fifth time this is happening to me, what can we do now? Even when we go to the clinic, sometimes they tell us to go back to our country.”

'Attacks not xenophobic'

At an urgent meeting between Gauteng Premier David Makhura and foreign shop owners, which was attended by Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi, in Mayfair, Johannesburg, on Saturday, Makhura reiterated the government line that this week’s action was “criminal and not xenophobic”.

He also assured shop owners that government and the police would do all they could to protect them and stop the anarchy.

“The indiscriminate looting in the shops is something we have condemned. We have told the police to find the looters, and already 160 people have been arrested,” Makhura said.

“What we saw in Soweto was not xenophobia, but criminal activity. And crime must be dealt with as crime because crime has no colour, class or gender.”

Last week, a police officer was filmed apparently participating in looting in Dobsonville, Soweto.

City Press has learnt that a multidisciplinary task team, made up of the police’s tactical response team, public order policing units, detectives, crime intelligence and visible policing units has been established to find the instigators behind the unrest.

Police spokesperson Solomon Makgale said on Friday night that a 13-month-old baby was trampled to death by looters in Kagiso.

“While people were looting one spaza shop, police arrived. The looters scattered. As they fled, some ran into a woman in her early 20s carrying a baby. In that commotion, the baby fell and was trampled by the fleeing mob. A case of murder is being investigated by Kagiso detectives,” he said.

In response to allegations of police collusion in the looting, Makgale said they knew of one case and had “taken the appropriate action in response”.

“There is absolutely nothing of this sort that has been brought to our attention. If there is evidence to corroborate these allegations, then we will certainly look into them and take action.”

Makgale said it was a pity that City Press decided to report a story containing “wild allegations” with “no shred of evidence”.

“Just because one police officer was shown on video looting, it does not mean every police officer who was out there was involved. If this story is published, then it will go down as the worst form of journalism I have ever seen,” he said.

Mixed reactions

Meanwhile, SA Spaza & Tuckshop Association president Rose Nkosi, whose organisation represents more than 3 000 stores around the country, said government should use the eviction of foreigners from Soweto as an opportunity to create jobs for local unemployed youth.

“These people are given spaces, but locals don’t have good places to sell. How do foreigners get good spots? That’s my first question, because we have officials at the border gates. How are these people coming in just like this?” she said at the home of 14-year-old Mthetheleli Mahori, whose death on Monday sparked the looting.

“We don’t want them back here, and the community has spoken. Rather let them go back to their countries and leave our country with freedom.”

Nkosi insisted that the spaza shops will reopen, “but only South Africans should run them”.

Meanwhile, City Press saw three elderly women begging police to allow them to buy bread for R9 as heavily armed police guarded a shop in Diepkloof.

One of the women, Victoria Mbambo, said she could not afford food from big retail shops because spazas sold cheaper goods.

“I know I will go hungry. Many others will go hungry. People do not think about tomorrow, they just think of today and come next week, they will be hungry and there won’t be anybody to give you food on credit like these people have been doing for years. That’s how many of us survive. What are we going to do now?”

  • andri.hugo.3 - 2015-01-25 17:21

    Everyone is in denial...I did not see one pic of a child stealing....all adults. Only foreigners are attached = xenophobia. This is black-on-black xenophobic violence and thuggery

      Genet Joobs - 2015-01-27 12:11

      I saw on TV a child of about 10 years, right in the middle of it, stealing.

  • Ernst Erich Hamann - 2015-01-25 17:21

    No words...............

      Nikki Downes - 2015-01-25 22:24

      One word; Sedition

  • RtySa Sa - 2015-01-25 17:22

    Please can this be shown at Davos - let this picture tell a different story to the brainless Zuma who told Davos "SA is open for business". let those people be the judges - frankly, those people are not idiots, like some in SA & government, and I am pretty sure they know the real state of what the ANC has been orchestrating for the last 20+ years. they know their money is well spend elsewhere...

      ivan.kraemer - 2015-01-25 17:30

      The country is open for business. Corrupt business, that is. That's why the corrupt Russians are coming.

      ivan.kraemer - 2015-01-25 17:30

      The country is open for business. Corrupt business, that is. That's why the corrupt Russians are coming.

      Miquette Caalsen - 2015-01-25 18:42

      They certainly do get diplomatic information packets from people stationed in SA. But then some sad case will steal the documents again and cry that the West is spying and must be exposed!

      Jacqui Daane Van Rensburg - 2015-01-26 10:35

      RtySa Sa. Don't worry those attending Davos, know more that you think. What do you think their diplomatic staff here reports back to them?.

  • Brad Saunders - 2015-01-25 17:22

    Damn I hate being painted with the same brush foreign observers must be painting SA with right mow. The entitlement cause has a great example in JZ. so expect more of the same with no one really accountable.

  • Michael Kelynack - 2015-01-25 17:23

    What?? We have corrupt cops here? Impossible.

  • ivan.kraemer - 2015-01-25 17:27

    These cops make a mockery of the word police. They are the worst form of criminals and the good cops should make sure these rubbish are caught in order to clear their name.

  • Steve Louw - 2015-01-25 17:27

    Why even doubt Paul. Have yoi seen the report in the Afrikaans Sunday newspaper. It states thst the SA Police is corrupt and rotten to the core, right from the top down. So what took place in Soweto does not surprise me. Still they mustn't complain, they voted for it.

  • Hendrik Breed - 2015-01-25 17:27

    You are the makers of your own destiny. Live with it or change it. 62% do not want to change it.

      Dawie Barnard - 2015-01-25 19:08

      Point well made! The responses of most of the black respondents to this article display a very disturbing mindset, namely that accusing the police of looting is wrong, but that the act of looting is acceptable. Next they will loot Shoprite or whatever and find an excuse for it. In Africa, mob mentality rules and laws are seen as guidelines to adhere to only if it suits your purpose on the day.

      sthembize.zulu - 2015-01-25 20:47

      Barnard. Paying etolls is the law not a guideline. Do you pay? You see now, many others not just blacks or Africans adhere to the law when it suits them

      Rodger Neil - 2015-01-26 13:09

      @Mageba , e tolls is , in itself , theft from the already paying public , and is therrefore , wrong stealing from a bussiness , that is not forcing you to "pay" for things you already have paid for , is wrong now do you get it , in other words , leave other peoples property alone , stop stealing ( looting) , if you want something , pay for it

  • Lynette Mufaro - 2015-01-25 17:31

    After all that foreigners from America to African countries did towards the abolishment of apartheid for black South Africa this is the the thanks they get???

      Hentie Vollgraaff - 2015-01-25 17:58

      Firstly, they are probably from Somalia or china, but definitely not from USA. Secondly, if i remember correctly USA and UK vetoed many UN divisions to boycott apartheid.

      JJ Terblanche - 2015-01-25 19:12

      Hentie, I think you should read Lynette's comment slowly... with comprehension.

  • Chris Bothma - 2015-01-25 17:31

    Curious to see what the South African Human Rights Commission is going to do about this.

      Pieternella VandeKaap - 2015-01-25 19:51

      Chris, if none of the perpetrators are blonde, thin and white, I'd say.. NOTHING.

      Tasia Manikas - 2015-01-26 13:48

      With our current culture of racism against anyone who is not absolutely black and our people's very obvious "anti-foreigner" stance, my guess would be absolutely nothing. It seems that in this country human rights are only for some, not for all.

  • Nomini Jemsana - 2015-01-25 17:31

    So these people are thieves nd then they blame it on the police nd u expect us 2 believe these idiots anyway show us proof dnt cum with nonsense stories

  • shaheed.baboo - 2015-01-25 17:31

    Theft ingrained in people. No sense of responsibility nor accountability.

  • Mirriam Dube - 2015-01-25 17:39

    Yah nè

  • Mirriam Dube - 2015-01-25 17:40

    Yah ne

  • Neliswa Skenjana Breiter - 2015-01-25 17:46

    Well, cant say I'm suprised..

  • johnlubisi.john - 2015-01-25 17:54

    Banana Republic

  • TheOldCynical - 2015-01-25 17:54

    All I can say to the decent people is to leave. This will not change. This people that did this is the majority. They decide the future of SA come voting time. They support thieves like Zuma, Malema, Petersen, McBride. There is no future for decent people with the likes of Sadick in the majority. Leave and give your children the opportunity to grow up in a decent law abiding country.

  • Rory Preddy - 2015-01-25 17:55

    Vote ANC. Vote progress!

  • David Sweers - 2015-01-25 17:57

    We born here. . These foreigners choose to come live here.. watch the news ppl..

  • Menzie Thandazani Sibanda - 2015-01-25 18:01

    ISIS is coming dis os very dangerous society

      Nikki Downes - 2015-01-25 22:30

      Menzie, while out of context, I am pleased you raised it. Yes, we are sitting ducks for this. I don't want to increase xenophobia but we do have a rather large influx of Pakistanis and Somalis lately. I really hope it's all innocent

  • Sipho Junju - 2015-01-25 18:01

    I think rose nkosi president of association of sa tuck shops she answer like a stupid, she is not fit for this position, how should u promote crime, this south african peoples are the one who give this people places n shops n they gave u money for business licences so stop to be better

      Nikki Downes - 2015-01-25 22:34

      Wait Sipho.... Let me catch up here. Are you seriously saying there is a PRESIDENT of TUCKSHOPS? Forgive my ignorance but this means that micro entrepreneurs are regulated right from the entry point. I finally understand what is wrong now. Entrepreneurs and red tape do not gel. It's as simple as that

  • TheOldCynical - 2015-01-25 18:09

    Hi Zuma....see your children...They are following your example. You will go down in history for your rotten morals and lack of ethics. What we see now is what you will be remembered for.

      Dawie Barnard - 2015-01-25 19:16

      Once a country has lost it's moral compass, there is no turning back.

  • CaL - 2015-01-25 18:11

    Disgraceful, despicable and proof of just what South Africa as a country stands for. Anarchy from top to bottom - Zuma is a champion of the lawless and uneducated masses!

  • Mark Austin - 2015-01-25 18:12

    Typical Africa, this is what happens when hand a country over to a president who has no clue or brains to what is going on.

  • catcha.wakeup - 2015-01-25 18:13

    Cannot blame them at all. Jakob Nkandla and his band OT thieves set the tone for the behavior of its people. SARS should seriously look into taxing looters cos nothing will happen to them. May has well collect tax on stolen goods.

  • catcha.wakeup - 2015-01-25 18:13

    Cannot blame them at all. Jakob Nkandla and his band OT thieves set the tone for the behavior of its people. SARS should seriously look into taxing looters cos nothing will happen to them. May has well collect tax on stolen goods.

      Aprilia Carl - 2015-01-25 20:48

      SARS?!? Hahahaha! They're also part of the corrupt useless ANC now.

  • Shaun Vasquez - 2015-01-25 18:13

    Everything Mandela achieved and dreamed about has been destroyed. They want everything but to lazy to work for it. No hope for Africa. More investors shiukd withdraw from africa so that the situation gets even wors.... only then they will wake up and realize... eish we were wrong..... and then it is gonna be to late...... this country is heading ta anither Central African Republic......

      Nikki Downes - 2015-01-26 13:43

      There was one very important thing that Mandela have the country. Hope. Hope and the vision of a United nation working together. It could have been a disaster for all

  • Zulu Jstathought957 - 2015-01-25 18:15

    No surprise, no trust, no respect de SAPs is skelm like de number one eish ZANC disgrace to dis country

      Nikki Downes - 2015-01-25 22:37

      It's like asking the lions to guard the buck.

  • Arno Vlok - 2015-01-25 18:16

    This isn't xenophobic; lets call it what it is RACIST! Wonder when Gwede will tell us their 'spoilt foreigners'

  • FairnessforAll Freedom - 2015-01-25 18:16

    Oh boy..only in SA

  • Entsho Tau - 2015-01-25 18:27

    Strange majority of comments here accuse others of Racism but they're racists themselves. A little bit of self introspection won't do any harm. People are so preoccupied with Zuma, they don't see the bigger picture, South Africans are so resilient & I think we should start thinking beyond Zuma, forget about Nkandla, we're too special to be held back by the old man.

  • Julio Sanfona - 2015-01-25 18:34

    This story would be quite funny if it wasn't so tragic. What a bunch of useless morons, that includes the police that were involved in the looting, the looters and especially the lying police commissioner who says that the situation in under control when clearly it is chaotic. Now they're demanding that they're given the spaces that the foreign shop owners had, but weren't the spaces there all the time before the foreigners came and started using these spots?

      Aprilia Carl - 2015-01-25 20:46

      Funny? In what universe could this be remotely funny?

  • Craig Dennis - 2015-01-25 18:38

    You are savages, behavior like this deserves life in jail.

  • WILLIAM H. - 2015-01-25 18:38

    The police have the greatest thief master of all time, the great thief himself Zuma....

  • Spencer Joyce - 2015-01-25 18:41

    Keep voting ANC and all the sub standard government structures they put in place and support. Zimbabwe here we come

  • markmiwordz - 2015-01-25 18:46

    Wow these shopkeepers must come from terrible countries to want to live in this hellhole.

      Joel Mabeke - 2015-01-25 19:51

      These are rebels we talking about the've killed and maimed in their countries.

      Arno Vlok - 2015-01-25 20:08

      And another racist remark from Mabeke

      Aprilia Carl - 2015-01-25 20:45

      Joel you are a halfwit. Shut up.

  • Mary Milne Archibald - 2015-01-25 18:50

    Cops may have told you to loot but you still have the right to do the right thing ~ do not loot.

  • Spencer Joyce - 2015-01-25 18:52

    The biggest joke us watching news coverage and seeing SAP standing there condoning the attacks & letting them get away with it

      Orlando Cliff Mphafudi - 2015-01-25 21:21

      Eishhhhhh we not safe.

  • Lappies van Tonder - 2015-01-25 18:57

    Black Dictionary Racism: (Noun) A white tendency to be counter revoultionary towards the true sons of the soil, aka blacks. This can also mean when a white man judges a black man in any form. please note Blacks cannot be racist. and for any black on black racism pls look up #xenophobia. blacks: we hate the fact that these foreigners are coming in and having kids and not giving us any work, soon they will claim land. irony ( blacks did the same in 1700's, came from north africa and bread themselves into the majority)

      amadeus.geldenhuys - 2015-01-25 20:16

      Xenophobia (intense or irrational dislike or fear of people of other countries) is the result when Ubuntu failed (origin - Zulu an Xhosa) Xenophobia is just another word for racism (prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior)

  • Mark Powell - 2015-01-25 19:02

    What a bunch of low lifes

  • Jan Van Riebeek - 2015-01-25 19:14

    sorry guys, this is my fault. sincerest apologies Jan

  • Goerge Mjojana - 2015-01-25 19:24

    If I was one of the affected shop owners,I would put the rat killer on all the food and let these stupid thugs help themselves.

      Aprilia Carl - 2015-01-25 20:43

      Rat poison is harmless to humans

      Orlando Cliff Mphafudi - 2015-01-25 21:19

      It doesn't even kill rats so how would it harm a person who is strong enough to loot.

      Orlando Cliff Mphafudi - 2015-01-25 21:19

      It doesn't even kill rats so how would it harm a person who is strong enough to loot.

      Orlando Cliff Mphafudi - 2015-01-25 21:19

      It doesn't even kill rats so how would it harm a person who is strong enough to loot.

      Orlando Cliff Mphafudi - 2015-01-25 21:19

      It doesn't even kill rats so how would it harm a person who is strong enough to loot.

      Orlando Cliff Mphafudi - 2015-01-25 21:19

      It doesn't even kill rats so how would it harm a person who is strong enough to loot.

      Orlando Cliff Mphafudi - 2015-01-25 21:19

      It doesn't even kill rats so how would it harm a person who is strong enough to loot.

      Daniel Koen - 2015-01-26 08:34

      @aprilla Carl - That is nonsense, rat poison caused internal bleeding in humans and kill them.

  • Ian Murray - 2015-01-25 19:35

    When inter communal blood shed happens to minority communities please note that the low recruiting standards of the police means that minorities must defend themselves against barbaric behaviour. Take note.

      Genet Joobs - 2015-01-27 12:17

      Yes, agreed.

  • Barrie Naylor - 2015-01-25 19:38

    If the opportunity presents itself, then go for it, is not called looting any more, the new name is 'Opportunistic Shopping'The phrase is derived from the EFF slogan which stands for 'Everything for Free'To the ANC I would say beware of the 'ARAB SPRING' people have had enough, and Mr Teflon Zuma must read Shakespeare about the 'Ides of March'and the killing of Caesar by his best friend Brutus. Uncle Cyril is only biding his time, and then the sh+t will hit the fan blades with a quick game of Minesterial musical chairs. If I was Mr Teflon Zumaat atthis moment, I would not go on too many out of South Africa overseas trips. You may not just be in power when you come back. You will not be the first African leader to have a 'coup' while you are away, and I doubt you will be the last!

  • Stiaan Jonker - 2015-01-25 19:44

    So if the cops tell you to jump in a lake you will do that too? Again no one is accepting any responsibility for their actions

  • Graham Grant Hayward - 2015-01-25 19:48

    Time for us to leave.We might not but we can empower our children.Let them feed there children dust.

  • prince.mqedlana - 2015-01-25 20:02

    Really do we have such a thing as police in this country???I never knew really

  • Logan Parker - 2015-01-25 20:06

    ...extremely sinister...

  • Che Kropp - 2015-01-25 20:06

    “I know I will go hungry. Many others will go hungry. People do not think about tomorrow, they just think of today and come next week, they will be hungry and there won’t be anybody to give you food on credit like these people have been doing for years. That’s how many of us survive. What are we going to do now?” i think that just about sums it up

  • Nhlotini Jonni - 2015-01-25 20:14

    Police assisting the looters, do we have the police in South Africa. What they know asking for cool drink money and looting.

      amadeus.geldenhuys - 2015-01-25 20:17

      Why am I not surprised?