Welkom police arrested 43 people this week following public violence and looting linked to unemployment protests, Free State police said on Sunday.
Of those arrested 34 were found in possession of stolen property after shops in Thabong were looted four nights in a row, spokesperson Warrant Officer Malebo Khosana said in a statement.
The businesses targeted were mostly owned by Bangladeshi people and Khosana said xenophobia could not be ruled out.
“We will do everything in our power to ensure that all those who were involved in these criminal acts are brought to book and our courts will deal with them harshly.”
The protests started last Wednesday when youths from Thabong unsuccessfully applied for jobs in Welkom’s mines.
Using rocks and branches they barricaded Mothusi Street in Thabong. Nine people were arrested on Wednesday night for public violence. They would remain in custody until their next appearance in the Welkom Magistrate’s Court on February 9.
On Thursday night youths again barricaded streets in Thabong using cellphone vending containers, and looted shops. On Friday police arrested four people for possession of stolen property, burglary and public violence. They too had appeared in court and would remain in custody until they appeared in court again on February 10.
On Friday night businesses in Mshenguville and Themba were targeted. Furniture in a house attached to a shop was stolen after the shop was robbed. A tavern was also robbed.
Police arrested 23 people for looting on Saturday morning. On Saturday night a cellphone shop in the Pula Nala shopping complex was robbed. And, on Sunday morning, police arrested a further seven people.
Police said residents “should be ashamed” and protect their interests and the dignity of others. — Sapa