David Makhura admits cops are 'overstretched' as Gauteng's death toll rises to 19

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A South Africa National Defence Force soldier detains a suspected looter at Jabulani Mall in Soweto, as rioting continued on Tuesday.
A South Africa National Defence Force soldier detains a suspected looter at Jabulani Mall in Soweto, as rioting continued on Tuesday.
LUCA SOLA / AFP
  • Ten people were reported dead after a stampede in Meadowlands, Soweto. 
  • Gauteng Premier David Makhura said 19 people have been killed in the province since the start of the violence. 
  • Makhura called for calm, saying police officers were overstretched. 

Gauteng Premier David Makhura has called for calm, saying police officers are "overstretched" as violence and looting continues in the province.

Makhura spoke in Meadowlands, Soweto, where 10 people were killed in a stampede at the Ndofaya Mall, taking the death toll to 19 since the unrest started in the province.

The mall that was looted is situated directly opposite Meadowlands police station. The words "Free Zuma" could also be seen spray-painted at its entrance.

There have been incidents of widespread looting and unrest in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. These are believed to have been incited by calls to free former president Jacob Zuma from prison.

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Zuma is serving a 15-month jail sentence for being in contempt of a Constitutional Court order compelling him to appear at the Zondo Commission to give evidence.

On Tuesday, looters in Soweto continued targeting local businesses and destroying properties.

Makhura, who was conducting a walkabout in various affected areas in Gauteng, told the media during his Meadowlands leg more than 400 people were arrested in the province.

He said:

At the moment, the situation is not under control ... as we speak now, the looting is continuing. We understand their situation, those who are unemployed. But the looting is something we must stop. It's undermining the economy. The looting is continuing. I can't say it's under control.

He said the looting and violence were a severe setback and undermined the economy.

Makhura added as violence continued, the province's vaccination programme had slowed down, and oxygen delivery was also affected.

Meanwhile, News24 visited various locations in Soweto, including Bara Square near Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

Heavily armed SA National Defence Force soldiers kept a close watch as mop-up operations were underway in the area.  

A body was also discovered at a Supa Store Cash & Carry in Dlamini after police dispersed looters.

Soldiers fired warning shots in an attempt to scare the rioters who appeared unbothered by their presence.

Various people were also spotted drinking liquor as they ran out of the store.

At Protea Garden in Protea South, Johannesburg metro cops used water cannons to disperse rioters.

Meanwhile at Protea Glen Mall, scores of people parked their vehicles on the side of the road loading their boots with food looted from the Sizwe Shopping Centre.

News24 was also at Jabulani Mall where some store owners were seen packing up what little was left of their goods, while soldiers kept a close eye. 

A member of the centre's management, who did not want to be named, said while he was unable to tell the extent of the damage, he figured it would take more than six months if not a year to fix the damage at the mall.

READ | Embers, desolate warehouses and empty shelves: The toll of violence on critical freight

Police officers stationed outside the mall were seen trying to stop crowds attempting to make their way inside the retail complex. When the News24 team left the area, the mall's entrance was empty with the police still blocking the rioters from entering it.

Community Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko, who had accompanied Makhura on the walkabout, urged retail centre management across the province to advise their tenants to clear whatever was left inside their stores.

She said sporadic lootings continued because people were regrouping soon after law enforcement agencies left certain areas. 

"We can't always be having running battles between police and looters. [The looters] still see what is left in the malls and want to take that. So, they [tenants] must come remove what still remains in their shops so that police can continue with other responsibilities that they have," Mazibuko added.

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