We were reacting to xenophobic threats in Benoni - police

2015-04-16 17:37

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Johannesburg - Public order police (POP), who were involved in a scuffle with hostel dwellers in Wattville on the outskirts of Actonville in Benoni on Thursday, said they were reacting to threats of xenophobia in the area.

"The warnings came yesterday [Wednesday] around 15:00 that in the afternoon that there would be [some xenophobic action] and the the POPs was sent to monitor the area," said Warrant Officer Ramothakhi Maqabe.

Police began monitoring the area around 08:00 on Thursday.

Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini, however, denied that the attacks were linked to xenophobia.

"We classify it as a criminal act, not a xenophobic attack," Dlamini said.

He said the majority of the shops opposite the hostel belonged to local business people and only a few belonged to foreign nationals.

Maqabe said a handful of POPs 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 teargas as they attempted to push the men back inside the hostel.

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

"Then we visited those who were still open and asked them to close their shops for a few hours,"said Maqabe.

In the late afternoon, the situation was calmer in the area.

Large rocks lay on the street and pavement as evidence of the unrest that had erupted.

Police were still monitoring the area.

Read more on:    saps  |  johannesburg  |  crime  |  xenophobia

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