UPDATE: Cele condemns violent protests in Joburg, briefs Makhura and Ramaphosa

2019-09-02 20:54
Protesters in Turffontein, Johannesburg, looted shops as they demonstrated in the area on Monday morning.

Protesters in Turffontein, Johannesburg, looted shops as they demonstrated in the area on Monday morning. (Ntwaagae Seleka, News24)

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Police Minister Bheki Cele has condemned the violent protests taking place in Johannesburg and surrounding areas.

In a statement released on Monday evening, Cele assured South Africans the violent acts were "nothing but criminality that must be stopped in its tracks".Cele has briefed both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Gauteng Premier David Makhura on the violence and is set to meet with leaders of the affected areas that include the izinduna (headmen) from the Denver and Cleveland hostels, which he believes many of the looters come from.

Cele welcomed the deployment of more police officers to the affected areas, including Johannesburg and other parts of the province, following days of chaos on the streets.

He also believed the increased police visibility, especially at night, would bring normality back.

Earlier, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said it was "deeply concerned" by the protests in Johannesburg.

The commission, in a statement on Monday, called for calm.

"Reports emerged over the weekend of these criminal activities and the commission calls for calm as well as a respect for and the observance of the rule of law. The commission also notes with concern similar displays of looting, violence and vandalism that erupted in Pretoria last week."

The protests began on Sunday in Malvern, Johannesburg, and spread to Jeppestown, Tembisa and surrounding areas.

News24 reported protesters had burned tyres, hassled bystanders and looted shops believed to be owned by foreign nationals.

The SAHRC has subsequently called on the government and members of the police to restore calm and "end the violence plaguing these communities".

Protesters told News24 they wanted foreigners out of the area, claiming they were dealing drugs.

The SAHRC also called on the community to use alternative channels to voice their concerns that "respect the rule of law".

"The commission urges communities to uphold and respect the rule of law despite their frustrations. Living within a constitutional democracy, with legal and constitutional mechanisms through which we can resolve our concerns, the SAHRC finds it inexcusable for anyone to be subject to the violence so many communities are experiencing at the moment."

It added while it recognised the "social, economic and political factors which give rise to the unrest in South Africa", it has in the past called on role players to deal with these factors that could give rise to violent unrest.

"The commission will soon engage relevant officials and stakeholders in the cities to look into this situation and see how the root causes can best be addressed in order to avoid a repeat of these unfortunate events."

On Monday morning, the police said 41 people had been arrested since the early hours of Sunday.

Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant General Elias Mawela said the incidents were "inhumane".

"It is a sad day when people choose to capitalise on the misfortune of others to advance anarchy or criminality. Three people perishing in a burning, collapsing building can never justify what is now happening in Jeppestown, Malvern and surrounding areas. With such a tragedy, the community should be uniting to assist those affected instead of seeing an opportunity to commit crime," said Mawela.

The provincial police said officers were "on high alert and monitoring" Reiger Park and Oakmore in Tembisa following several attacks on shops in those areas.

The ANC in Gauteng appealed for calm and restraint following the violence in the province over the past couple of days in parts of central Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.

It appealed to communities, both South Africans and foreign nationals, not to take the law into their own hands. 

"Irrespective of the mitigating socio-economic pressures exacerbated by conditions of crime, unemployment, joblessness and poverty that confront many communities in Gauteng and in our country, resorting to violence and lawlessness can never be a justifiable way to respond to the situation," its spokesperson, Bones Modise, said.

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Read more on:    sahrc  |  johannesburg  |  crime

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