'We have a plan to deal with looting', say Mpumalanga police after violence erupts in Witbank

12 September 2019 - 16:16 By Ernest Mabuza

Mpumalanga police have been told to be on patrol, particularly in areas with a high number of foreign-owned shops.

Provincial SAPS spokesperson Brig Leonard Hlathi made this announcement on Thursday following an incident in the Witbank CBD on Wednesday during which several shops owned by foreigners were looted.

Police arrested six people, including the alleged mastermind of the looting spree. Several stolen items were recovered.

The incident, captured on video which has since gone viral, shows several members of the community fleeing from a certain shop with stolen items.

"The police moved swiftly and diffused the situation before it escalated due to a contingency plan that was put in place as a control measure to suppress a possible outbreak of similar incidents within the province.

"Police stations have been given a strict mandate to conduct intensive visible patrols in all areas but also prioritise and monitor the areas with a large number of foreign-owned shops," Hlathi said.

He said the Crime Intelligence Unit had also been roped in to gather information on possible threats, so that police members on the ground could be deployed accordingly.

Hlathi said there were engagements taking place at local level between the police and representatives of the foreign-owned businesses. He said sector managers have been activated to stay alert at all times.

Hlathi said the six people arrested were expected to appear in the Witbank magistrate’s court on Friday on charges of possession of stolen property, theft, and intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Mpumalanga police meanwhile urged the community not to participate in criminal acts but to instead report them to police.