Seventy-five suspects have been arrested across Gauteng so far following the breaking and looting of foreign-owned shops in Soweto last week, according to police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini.
Dlamini also confirmed that four murder cases were opened – three at the Moroka policing area – which includes White City and Mofolo – and one in Tshepisong.
Some of the arrested suspects appeared at the Kliptown, Protea and Meadowlands Magistrate’s Courts on Friday and others are due to appear in court today.
“They are facing charges of business breaking and theft, malicious damage to property, possession of unlicensed firearms, attempted murder, murder and public violence,” said Dlamini.
Some of the goods that were stolen during the looting of shops owned by foreign nationals in Soweto and other townships in Gauteng last week have been recovered by police during raids.
These goods include branded refrigerators, steel shelves and groceries worth thousands of rands.
The police also found 22 unlicensed firearms during their raids across the province after getting information from community members.
“Two [people] were arrested in Orange Farm and the other at Jabulani. Other suspects found in possession of firearms were arrested in Hillbrow, Eden Park, Moroka, Sebokeng, Ga-Rankuwa, Douglasdale, Pretoria West and Eldorado Park,” Dlamini said.
“All the firearms will be taken for ballistic examination to establish if they were not used to commit serious and violent crimes.”
The raids were set up following violent clashes which started in Soweto but then spread to other areas last week.
Things started heating up when community members in White City made their way into one of the stores to allegedly remove stock amid rampant claims of foreign store owners selling expired foods and items with fake labels on them. One of the owners opened fire on the crowd, killing a teenage boy in the process. The escalating violence resulted in more deaths and many were left injured.
Somali Community Board chairperson Amir Sheikh says they want justice to take its course in the murder of the teenager.
“If the shooter was a Somali national then we will take a look at the circumstances as to whether it was self-defence or not. If it was, then we will support him but if not we will stand with the family of the victim and get justice for the family,” Sheik said.
The Food and Allied Workers Union has condemned the attacks on foreigners and says local citizens should not take the law into their own hands.
General secretary Katishi Masemola said: “We call on government to establish a multi-disciplinary task force involving health inspectors, tax officials, police officers and other relevant players to crack down on illegal local manufacturers, illegitimate importers and smugglers, and overall illicit traders involved in a range of products.”
The African Diaspora Forum, which represents foreign shop owners, has put the blame on government for failing to regulate township businesses.