'Like a war zone': 41 arrested, shops looted and cars damaged in Joburg CBD
More than 40 people have been arrested after an overnight looting and burning spree in Jeppestown and surrounding areas in Johannesburg.
Police spokesperson Capt Mavela Masondo said authorities had responded to a fire at a hijacked building in Jeppestown on Sunday morning.
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He said three people died in the blaze while a fourth was treated for smoke inhalation.
"While we were still investigating with emergency services, people who were around started taking advantage of the situation and looted shops."
Masondo said police regained control of the situation in Jules Street and initially arrested four people.
"We managed to control the situation, but criminals returned late on Sunday."
The mob looted and set alight several shops in the area. Dozens of cars were torched at dealerships.
Looters took to the streets of Jeppestown on September 1 2019. The protesters looted and caused damage worth millions of rand. Local business owners have been left trying to pick up the pieces.
Many of the 41 people arrested by mid-morning on Monday were caught in the act - looting shops or carrying stolen goods. Eight suspects were arrested inside a shop at Vusimuzi informal settlement, where there was more looting in Tembisa.
Gauteng provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela described the incidents as lawless and 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,” he said.
Mawela warned people to refrain from inciting violence. Police noted threats of violence circulating on social media.
“Those who are hell-bent on turning Gauteng into a crime haven will be found and will face the full might of the law,” he said.
Law enforcement agencies, emergency and fire services were on the ground on Monday to ensure the situation was contained.
Police were also on high alert, monitoring Reiger Park and Oakmore in Tembisa, Ekurhuleni, following sporadic attacks at shops on Monday.
In a separate incident in Tembisa, police recovered two firearms at the scene of a business robbery where two armed suspects were fatally shot and the victim, believed to be the shop owner, was rescued.